6 Realities In A Super Religious Family That Wants Me Dead
Children will make choices in life that baffle or enrage their parents. For most of us, these choices never result in anything worse than a few icy dinners before mom finally accepts that the nose ring is a part of you, dammit. But for some young Muslims, mostly women, the cost of disappointing mom and dad is much, much higher. In fact, it can be deadly. Cracked sat down with Azime (not her real name), who lives in fear that her parents will discover her "secret life" as a normal adult woman and murder her for it.
Yes, Some Families Are Willing To Kill Their Own Children For "Honor"
Azime is a woman in her mid-20s living in the Netherlands. Despite the fact that her home country has an international reputation for marijuana, prostitution, and general unchained leftism, she lives in mortal fear that her family will find out she dates boys and listens to American music. We're not exaggerating about the "mortal" part of that.
"My family is from an orthodox religious background, and I have been living my teenage years and all of my adult life as a double-life, under the threat of honor killings. ... My parents are Orthodox Islamic. No boinking before marriage, eyes straight to the ground -- no talking, no communicating with them, no forms of entertainment that are common in Western civilization. No going out, no drinking, no smoking whatsoever in any direction."
"Honor killing" is a phrase that belongs in Game Of Thrones, but it somehow still has a place in the modern real world. The U.N. estimates at least 5,000 people die in honor killings every year.
The real number is likely much higher, because that estimate includes only 18 countries.
There are honor killings in the United States, it happens in the British Isles, and it happens all across Europe. Exact numbers for any individual country are hard to come by, because while most honor killings in the West are punished, they're usually not identified as honor killings. It just goes down as "young woman killed by crazed father."
Azime isn't super religious now. But she used to be:
"I was very religious as a kid; my parents put a lot of thought into my religious education. We had Quran school every summer every year ... up until I was 14 I, like, inherently believed, intensely, myself."
But now that she doesn't believe, she finds herself living a "complete double life" to avoid winding up like these two girls in Dallas who were shot eleven times for dating Americans. During a memorial vigil, their brother reportedly said, "They pulled the trigger, not my dad."
Most Muslims are perfectly rational people who wouldn't murder their daughters for listening to the rock station. Any sane person knows that having children who disappoint you is just part of the deal. But if you are unlucky enough to have a parent that believes in honor killings, it's likely your whole family does. One expert estimates that 30 percent of honor killings are an unholy episode of Family Feud.
It Dominates Your Whole Life
Before she even thought about rebelling against her family's fundamentalist values, Azime knew that speaking out would be a bad idea.
"We used to go to Turkey every summer. You go on vacation, fall asleep. ... I caught a lot of conversations back then that I did not fully understand, about nieces and aunts I had that were no longer, quote, 'part of the family.' I don't know what their names are, where they are exactly in the bloodline -- they are never mentioned by name. I think I have a niece who got pregnant at 16. And my parents considered adopting her child, but not her. She was never seen or heard from again."
It's one of the few times where finding a relative randomly on a reality show
would have actually been a relief.
As she grew older and "rowdier" -- a term which here means "started playing D&D," because Azime is the kind of well-behaved nerd most parents dream of -- the threats from Azime's parents became much more direct and explicit. "Honor killing became part of verbal threats my parents used," she said. And she had reason to believe they'd follow through:
"I have a large extended family; [my father has] five sisters and four brothers. And I know there are at least four girls who have gone missing over the last 200 years. And that niece is one of them. I can't find out in any way what happened to her."
Any number more than zero is entirely too much.
When your mom and/or dad have existing anger-management problems, God's Seal of Murderous Approval can escalate to something truly terrifying:
"My parents have anger issues. They could be physically abusive. I was quite an outspoken person. I've always been really stubborn. We'd often get into fights, and my parents told me in the beginning when I wasn't being religious enough, it'd start off ... 'If you don't fix your behavior, we'll send you to Turkey to one of those religious boarding schools.' And it got progressively worse from there, to the point where my dad said, 'If I ever find out you've been hanging out with a boy, I will break your bones with my bare hands.' 'If I discover you've had sex before marriage, no one will ever see you again.'"
But Azime wasn't about to turn her back on blue jeans, Breaking Bad, and Wizards of the Coast's fine product line ...
You Can Hide Your Real Life ... For A While
"When I lived at home, social media weren't really such a thing yet. ... I lived in a relatively small town; my dad was a local representative, mostly voted on by his Turkish base, so all Turks in the town knew me. Knew whose daughter I was. When I still lived at home, during day hours, I couldn't go to the park and sit with my friends, because if some random Turk walked by, my parents would know before I was home."
Clearly the devil's seating apparatus.
"If I did hang with friends, I had to change names, make up stories -- I tried to keep as close to reality as possible because that's easier." But keeping up the lie is a dangerous thing: It means any random acquaintance you make at a party or social event could give you away. "If a boy greets you from across the street you put on an 'I have no clue who that is' face, up to when I moved out on my own."
Moving out meant college and ... more freedom than she'd had before. "I wasn't allowed to live in dorms. Because those meant nonreligious people." Today she's graduated college and moved away on her own, which means, she said, "I am free to go outside." She added, "I purposefully have no contact with local Turkish people. And I live my life basically like I want to."
You shouldn't have to choose between not getting doner kebabs
or not getting murdered, but here we are.
But the instant she goes back home? "I have to completely adjust my clothing, wear an ankle-length skirt, long sleeves, decent hair; I have to make sure I have nothing anti-religious with me. No ... 'liberal' books or reading materials in my bag, shit like that."
We're assuming she also has to temporarily change her homepage from Cracked.com. Truly, that's no way to live.
Even Casual Acquaintances Can Endanger Your Life
"I had this family I went over to a couple times with my first boyfriend. I found time to talk with parents, very normal. A couple years later I had a different boyfriend, same friend group. ... So we went over there a couple times. Then I get a call from my sister.
"'Who is Steven?'
"'Uh, my ex?'
"'OK, yeah. Mom just called me from the city. She wants to know who Steven is.' It turns out my parents ran into those parents, they got talking, 'How's she and Steven?'
"My parents kept a normal face in the moment. But they freaked out to my sister. She told me, 'They want to know who he is; dad is talking about driving over to you right now. Mom says we should wait, to get more info out of you.'"
If your parenting style is what Cold War KGB would deem excessive, you need to reconsider things.
So Azime was pulled out of her normal -- and we stress totally self-sufficient adult life -- to deal with the crazy, potentially violent beliefs of her parents. "I'm freaking out, because I'm at work. And my home was not religiously approved. I smoked. I had cigs around. My boyfriend's stuff was there -- my bathroom has two toothbrushes, two deodorants. I tried to call my parents. But they didn't answer. So I called those people's son, even though they hadn't talked in five years. ... 'Remember my parents? I don't want to bother you, but I need to talk to your parents; I need to know exactly what's been said.'"
Then she called his parents. "'Hi. I know this sounds really weird, but my parents are extremely religious. Can you please tell me what you said?' As it turned out, the woman misremembered. She remembered explicitly saying he was my boyfriend and told me, 'Your parents responded quite normally.'"
This, of course, freaked Azime right the hell out. She ditched work and raced home to pack everything "incriminating" into a bag that she stashed at a friend's house. Then she went back to work.
If she could fit her boyfriend in there, she would have.
"By the time I came around home, my parents were standing in front of my door. Yes, they wanted to question me -- but it turned out the woman hadn't been that specific; she'd just said that I'd come over with friends and AMONG them was Steven."
That's right: Even as an adult living on her own, if her parents even think she might have at one point been in a group with a man -- not even in a romantic context -- they'll race over to her apartment to confront her. Makes the time your mom found weed in your room and grounded you for a month seem like some sort of hippie-liberal freakshow.
The Only Way Out Is To Slowly Cut Ties With Your Whole Family
Azime sought advice from an NGO, Kadera, that specializes in domestic violence. She also sought some help from The Man. "I also had, like, a risk analysis with them and the local police to see what risk it would be. They concluded, don't tell your parents how you live your life -- just do it secretly and be careful." So just hide everything about who you are and hope they don't kill you? Sweet advice, The Man. No wonder nobody likes you.
Azime doesn't want to keep living a double-life forever.
"I always told myself, whenever I'm done with my studies, I'd tell them and see where it goes from there. Realistically, I want to move out of the Netherlands. ... I love traveling. The NGO I talked with and the police I talked with worked out a plan for me, that I'd slowly disentangle myself from my family. Slowly toning down social meetings. Slowly stepping further and further, emotionally and socially disengaging. ... It's cowardly, in a sense, but it's safest. Basically, don't tell them I plan on moving out. Finish my studies. And either write or call them when I'm in another country: 'Hey, here's who I am, this is my life, I still love you, but I'm afraid of what you'd do; whenever you want to have contact with me again, please let me know.'"
"If they follow you on Twitter, never tag locations."
Azime did offer some hope that her parents might "come to their senses" after "a couple of decades." She was less optimistic about other family members. "During the risk assessment, we looked at risk factors -- my only other Turkish family in the Netherlands is my uncle, and he has a criminal record of putting his wife's face through the wall multiple times."
Azime doesn't think her family would hunt her down, Taken-style, and murder her. But she's afraid if she has any direct contact with them after they know the truth, momentary anger will turn into psychotic violence.
"A lot of the honor killings in Netherlands and Germany don't start out that way. A confrontation gets out of hand, cultural and religious aggression siphon into one big shitstorm, and one person winds up dead."
Picture every war ever, shrunk down to personal scale.
The "planned" response to a once-good Muslim girl leaving her faith goes a bit differently ...
Never Trust A Family Vacation
Azime is a citizen of the E.U. She has all the civil rights and police protection a wealthy democracy can offer. Which is why she's deathly afraid of getting trapped in Turkey with her family. "They can't LEGALLY force you to leave Europe or the U.S. for the Middle East ... but it still happens." Usually in the form of a simple family vacation. "Their parents ditch them, force them to marry, send them to a boarding school. Once they have your passport, they're not letting you go, and you have no easy escape, because you're off in the mountains. Family says, 'She's decided to stay in Turkey -- take a year off school.'"
It can take a long time for the government to realize a woman is missing. After all, European kids go off backpacking all the time, spending months on end stinking up the hostels in other countries. By the time it becomes clear a young woman isn't on holiday, it can be too late. After talking with the police and that NGO, Azime was told that Step 1 was:
"'Don't go on vacation again with your parents.' So I haven't. My grandma died two months ago; my whole family went over. ... It was so extremely hard not to go. It's still my family, and I still love a lot of them -- my grandma was this sweet old kind lady who loved all her grandchildren to bits. And I couldn't go, because it was just too much of a risk for me as a person to go with my family."
Fear of death is normal at a funeral, but not this way.
"We'd have been going to those rural areas, where they have those goddamn boarding schools. My dad's youngest sis was quite rebellious as a child. She came out four years later a COMPLETELY devout wife. She's married right now to a dude who cheats on her, treats her like crap, and all she does is take care of his children. She's so devout, so unquestioning ... it's frightening."
Fear of being the victim of an honor killing permeates every aspect of Azime's life. It's like every time she goes to work, watches TV, or gets laid, she's doing it with an ax above her head.
"We're not just talking actually getting killed, but everything around it. This ranges from having to lead a complete double life to stress, paranoia, anxiety, depression, suicide, and a shorter lifespan (because your heart really loves the permanent stress)."
Which is basically honor killing by proxy.
"And we've not even gotten into the whole range of life choices that get narrowed for you, like hobbies or projects you can't do because it might lead to you getting found out (personally, I've been dying to start a couple of YouTube projects, but I can't risk plastering my face over the Internet)."
We'd love to end this article on a hopeful note, but we actually have the exact opposite for you. A few weeks after reaching out to us, while the article was wrapping up development, Azime stopped responding to our messages. She didn't say she'd lost interest, she didn't express any dissatisfaction with the article: She just dropped off the face of the Earth. So, Azime, if you just dropped your laptop in a puddle or spontaneously joined a kung fu monastery, please get back in touch with us as soon as you either get a new MacBook or master the Rising Dragon Kick. We're worried.
Robert Evans runs the personal experience section of Cracked, and he has a Twitter.
Yeah, so, you know maybe if you think your life sucks, add this perspective to it. Or be happy that confiding in others won't get you sent to a prison camp, or your neighbors aren't trying to massacre you. See what we mean in 5 Ways Growing Up In North Korea Is Crazier Than You Think and 6 Realities Of Being In A Genocide.
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