Adjarian Muslim Women
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Islam appeared in Adjara between 1510 and the beginning of the seventeenth century when the Ottoman Empire started to expand in the Caucasus. As a result of spreading of Islam in Adjara, the Islam traditions were introduced to the local life. The project focuses on the details characterizing the life of Adjarian women, as well as their traditions, culture and challenges. Project aimed to show Adjarian Muslim women of different generations, with different challenges and different views on life.

 

Kebali Djimsheradze

"Friday prayers are not obligatory for women, they can skip going to the mosque and attending prayers. They can pray behind the curtains. In the same building, but behind the curtains".

 

Phatime, 77 years old, from Khelvachauri

"I studied at school for 4 years. After schooling, we learned housekeeping. I was brought up in a big family and didn't get an education; such was common back then.

We have the same traditions, as we had before; we didn’t change anything. We will not lose our traditions, we are the same as we were before. We don’t go to the mosque, we have our corner to pray from at home.

Young people follow current developments, which change over time. We, older people - don’t. We will never get used to not praying".

"Our daughter-in-law was the queen, who was greeted by the king. They had never seen each other before. They would meet, with a veil on the face. I did not know my husband, he didn’t know me either. I was engaged at 17, for 3 years. We didn’t meet each other, only our Mother-in-law and father-in-law visited us. 3 years passed.

Everything has changed now, Girls get married with love, talk over the phone.

An income decided everything - a family was judged by its income - how they could survive and live. If the middleman praised both the girl and the boy, the family would decide to marry them. The uncle, father, mother would sit down together and decide the marriage, they would buy the engagement ring and set the date.

An engagement that lasts for several years does not exist now - if they meet each other for one week, they marry the next week. I was engaged for 3 years.

It would be good to talk to each other, you would know, to whom are you marrying. Young people talk now and meet each other before a wedding, and it’s better.

Families were stronger in the past. When the woman was widowed, she would not marry for a second time. It was prohibited. This happened very rarely, if she was very poor and could not bring up her children alone - then she would remarry.

Our religion does not ban polygamy, but this doesn’t happen anymore. If the wife could not have children or she gave birth only to a girl, then the husband had the right to marry another woman, but only with an agreement from his wife".

 

"When I got married, I lived with my husband’s parents. We would not eat in the presence of my father-in-law. It was the rule. We could not even talk to him. If you had something to say, you would do it with the help of a third person or you would be quiet.

When my daughter-in-law came to our family, I sat her and my husband down at the same table and let them talk to each other.

I think, that talking with the father-in-law is nice, you want to eat and talk with him.

The first day when I was allowed to eat and talk with my father-in-law was one of the happiest and nicest of my life".

Kebali Djimsheradze, 74 years old

"I was 16 when I got married.  I was engaged at the age of 13. It was the tradition of those days. I didn’t want to get married at such a young age, but my mother was ill and she needed to be taken care of. We had problems in the family and that’s why we decided, that I should get married, so my wife could help with the house work. After a year we had a baby.

Brothers and sisters were married in the sequence according their age. The wife was prohibited to ask help from the sisters of her husband. She could ask for help very politely only if she could not get the job done.

I picked the wives of our sons. A life passes by… You can’t marry a woman with veil".

Surie Djimsheladze (Daughter-in-law)

I was 20 when I got married. I was learning to sew, and then my mother got ill.

Because of her illness, my aunts asked me to get married, before she was alive. I could not imagine to marry a man without knowing him. I was not planning to get married yet.

I could not have children for 11 years, but marrying a second wife was never an option, the family was by my side.

"I don’t want my child to marry a christian. I would not put up with it. It is very specific, When a christian and a muslim meet each other, conflict arises even during the talk. They both have their own values and views. I want someone who shares the same traditions and understands us more. Although our tradition does not prohibit marriage with a christian, however it’s better if a muslim man marries christian woman and not vice versa. A woman follows her husband with his beliefs and she will go to heaven after life. “The forty rules of Love” by Elif Shafak states, that the marriage of christian and muslim is like trying to mix oil and water.

When a person changes a religion, he is judged by god, not by people. People won’t say anything, if it’s not Paganism; religion must have the book.

Life is life, and god has divided it into 24 hours: for sleep, for work, and for prayers. You must follow everything. If you pray all the time, life will ask for work, if you work and don’t pray, god will ask for it. We should do whatever we can".

 

A woman, 68-years-old (A student)
A woman, 68-years-old (A student)

"I have been learning for 2 months now, and will finish my course soon. I’ve dreamt about being able to learn here for 5-6 years, but I had to bring up my grandchildren and I couldn’t learn. Thanks god, I found a way to learn now, I don’t have to bring up any children and I attend lessons. I want to learn the Arabic language and read the Quran in front of god. It’s very difficult at this age but if the god is on my side, I can surely learn something.

I went to school when I was young. I was working in the community, then I was trading. Life was requesting it from me. Now life has set me free. Teachers here are making impossible - possible and helping me to learn.

The generations differ very much, god forgive us, and god, help us. You can’t tell the difference from a man and a woman nowadays, god won't forgive us.

How can a woman’s body be seen by anyone except her husband?

Fashion… If you follow fashion, many things will change. Fashion has ruined everything, we must not follow it. You were not allowed to speak with your father-in-law, and you were not allowed to eat with him, also you could not leave the room properly, because you could not turn your back on him.

Daughters-in-law don’t obey these rules anymore, they are emancipated. There should be a difference between a man and a daughter-in-law who has come into his family. The tongue can say anything, once you are allowed to speak, and you can tell many things. When talking with a father-in-law was prohibited, the daughter-in-law was protecting herself, having respect for herself, her father-in-law and the family. It was important, it was the subject of respect.

My father was very harsh. When he entered the room, we were in another room and couldn’t leave it. We would guess what he needed just by one sight. I hadn’t told my father for more than 3 words, that we didn't have the right.

When I was finishing school, my father decided that I should get married. I refused, I was still learning and didn’t want to get married. The wife of my brother came to the room, I said no. My brother came into the room while I was crying, the pillow was wet from my tears. After that my father came in and he told me, he had already decided it, he gave me away, and I could not even dare to refuse. A parent’s word was the law. I didn’t agree with the idea of marrying a person without knowing him. After my father’s speech, he left the room and I started thinking. I could say ‘No.’ I could even escape some other time, but what if I didn’t have any luck? What if my husband died? Or I would get in an argument with him? Who would be my patron? A parent. And If I would run, I could not come back to them. That’s why I decided to marry as my father decided.

The wedding was set. I had not met my fiance yet. He came in the yard and I couldn’t look at him, I was looking at his feet. Everybody was looking at me, they knew I was refusing to get married. Back then, we had the tradition of setting foot. If a woman could beat the man and set the foot first, her word would count later in life. If a man would set the foot first, then his words would be the only law. I was looking at his feet and I beat him and set the foot first - my marriage was already arranged and this was the only thing I could do for myself. I had never seen my husband before. I was 17 by that time. The family took the responsibility to let me finish school. I gave birth later. Life was different back then, it was very hard".

 

Elza, 18 years old

"I’m in the 12th grade. I am preparing for university. I have been wearing a hijab for 10 months now. I wanted to wear it and we discussed it in the family, that I would wear it after I finish school. But the school was the only place I didn't wear hijab, I wore it when I came back from school, I prayed, and I walked outside with a hijab on. I didn’t wait until I finished the school. I thought that the school would not be a problem. My mother asked my father to convince me not to wear it yet, but my father is not the kind of a man who would prohibit something, especially when it concerns religion. He told me, that I’m already grown up and I have already decided it, so he would not be against it.

When I hear about the older generation and how harsh the parents were, if my father was like that, he would not have me in the family. The support means a lot. Also, if the director of the school would not allow it, I could not be wearing hijab. If they would not allow it, I decided I would go to school in my village.

I thought I was very strong, I could move mountains, while I was on my way to the director. When I entered the room, he was talking on the phone. He stopped and asked me to sit down. “What are you wearing?” He asked. He told me, he would talk to me only after I left the room, removed the hijab and came back in. I assured him that it was my final decision.

The director told me: “I will allow you to wear hijab, to show others that it’s possible”.

Now I wear hijab at school too, and I feel more respect and love from my classmates. Now they started the new fashion of wearing hijab. One girl asked me, why I wore hijab in a same way all the time, she told me I could change my image. I told her, that I’m not wearing it for the image and fashion, I wear it for my religion.

I hear about the old traditions and most of them are about women. A woman was more modest. She had more fairness and respect. We are more free now, human mentality and development has played some role. Also, education and knowledge changed us. All these make us who we are now".

 

The teacher, 23 years old
The teacher, 23 years old

"I think, youth tries to learn the religion more. The knowledge was less in the past, therefore, the prejudice was more. Many things were perceived wrongly. Now they behave better, when they learn religion.

We have students from various generations. The older generation knows religion from the traditions. Sometimes they perceive something a sin even if it's not in Islam. The newer generation learns more and has less prejudices.

I didn’t know anything about religion. Then I became friends with people, who were very religious, and I learned it and now I teach it myself".

 

Chai Khana
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