Although Daghli’s women still experience the constraints of a conservative society, things are very different from the “good old times” that all the neighborhood’s middle-aged men lament.
“Before, when families went to find a match for their sons in the neighborhood, they wanted to hear what men, not women, had to say about the girl. As they were confined to the home, women could often say little more than “she is a well-behaved girl,” while men had more details. They could offer more detail about her behavior, who accompanied when she went out, and who she spent time with,” says Oktay Gasimov.
That’s no surprise. To this day, men are still seen in the streets more often than women.
“Women are constantly under control. Young girls are not visible in the old neighborhoods; they are back at home, because the streets are controlled by boys. In the city, I think this situation is changing, but in the provinces it still remains,” explains Zumrud Jalilova, lecturer in gender studies at Baku State University.
Walking through the old streets of Daghli I encounter a group of men gathering at a corner; two of them are playing backgammon while the others spectate.
"Even now when we go to each other’s houses, we ask to see the man of the house. If a woman shows up, we turn our faces away,” says 38-year-old Elman Aliyev, rolling the dice onto the backgammon board.
But even if Daghli succumbed to the same urban redevelopment as other historic parts of Baku, some doubt that would mean the end of deep rooted conservative values.
“From gender perspective, urbanization has both positive and negative effects on old neighborhood traditions. In the neighborhood, women are able to gather and socialize among themselves, but in the new buildings they do not know each other,” continues Jalilova, the gender studies expert.
So Aliyev could be right when he says that nothing would change if the locals had to move due to demolition of their neighborhood. “We won’t leave our traditions behind,” he declares.
Moreover, local women in Daghli have internalized these patriarchal values which oblige men to protect them. As Rahima Ahmadova sees it, such a hierarchy is only natural and a good thing for women.
“I never used [my husband’s] name in front of my father-in-law,” says Rahima, pointing at her husband Miraslan Ahmadov who is sitting on the sofa. “I would say ‘he went, he came’ referring to my husband [in the third person.] I’m not the only one; other daughters-in-law did the same, too.”
Rahima adds that eating at the same table as her father-in-law, walking around with uncovered hair, and hugging children in front of him are all considered shameful.
Before I leave, I ask if I may take a photograph. “Oh no, what are you talking about… My brothers don’t like these kinds of things,” replies Rahima. “If they find out, they will rebuke me. Take a photo of Miraslan, that would be enough.”