Peride's story is collected especially for the SHHH project. All informants and stories in this project have been anonymised. All names are changed.
It was 2011. I had recently graduated from university with a degree in something I would never do if the world was tumbling down. My father was pushing me hard to work with him and I wasn’t going to do that either. I was not able to see my future, or any future for myself to be honest…
I was fighting with my father daily and one day it got physical. That was my queue for leaving the house without any warning or information of my whereabouts.
I started working as a waitress, but for a fat girl with a headscarf I must have known I wasn’t the right fit and that the manager hired me with an ulterior motive. He started harassing me from week one.
I was lost, utterly alone and there was this guy who had been circling around me. He was one of the nice ones, you know… He had small eyes and the smallest mouth I’ve ever seen on a round moonlike face. He wasn’t the smartest or the most accomplished, but he was nice, and nice was what I needed at that moment in my life. Of course, nothing comes for free in life. Calm and care were quid pro quo for sex. I’m not saying I did not want it, but I don’t necessarily remember enjoying it either.
It started as a weird feeling. I was feeling not entirely myself; something was amiss. It took me one morning sickness in the bus to get suspicious. As it appeared, I got knocked up even though I took the morning after pill. I remember feeling suicidal, frustrated, depressed, sad and very scared, all at the very same time.
My mother was a well-known scholar of Islam, I was wearing the headscarf, I was a believing, practicing Muslim. Still… I got pregnant outside of marriage. I knew it was unacceptable, I knew I had to solve the matter before everyone knew about my shame.
Obviously, the first idea that came across our minds was getting married. I don’t know if I should feel lucky that the guy did not abandon me and wanted to get married. He was pushing so hard for the marriage, probably because he knew I was way out of his league and the only way he was going to ensure that I stayed with him was by being bound by marriage. I did not want to marry him. He was simple. He hadn’t read more than ten books in all his twenty-six years of life. I was twenty-two and I wanted to be a writer. Not that I was any good at it, but a girl can aspire.
One day he said “You get married once in our culture.” That was my resolution to not get married to him. I still don’t know if it was a threat or just something he said out of stupidity, but the idea of not being able to get a divorce and maybe getting killed because I want a divorce definitely made up my mind.
Being a single mother was not an option either for a 22-year-old in Istanbul with a mere degree and no experience at all.
I went to a gynaecologist my boyfriend arranged in a shady part of Istanbul. It was somewhere I’ve never been to and never visited again. I was crying my eyes out while I told her about my shame. She said “You have time. Think and decide.” This was the most supportive comment I heard during the whole thing. I think she was a feminist.
My biggest issue as a believing woman was that I believed I was going to be a murderer if I had an abortion, but I wasn’t going to shame my family with the sin of pregnancy outside of marriage either. So, what was there to choose from. Suicide? It would kill my mother, me and my daughter Miriam, all at once. But I could not bring myself to kill Miriam. She was my baby… A baby that had come at a wrong time… Because of my carelessness, because of my stupidity… I felt miserable and cried for days without break. At last I decided I have to choose the easiest option, the one that looked smoothest.
It was not smooth. I killed Miriam. The heaviness of that crime is still hanging over my neck. I still have nightmares about severed bodies of babies or a little girl I forgot somewhere.
I left that operation table as a woman who killed the childish side inside her, her joyous side. I am still fighting every day to find that child, that joy, that hope… That moral and bodily integrity. I do not know if I could ever find it again but after almost nine years, I can say I am glad I had that abortion. I chose me. It was a heavy decision. It is a heavy decision still, but I am glad I chose me.
And most of all I am glad that I had the means to have a legal abortion. I cannot imagine what I would do if I had to travel to another country or had to choose facing the public shaming of having a child out of wedlock! YES! It is still a thing in the 21st century and as a budding feminist I cannot deal with that.