Nigar teyze sits on a cushion in front of her loom and covers her lap with a blanket. It's freezing cold and draughts. My eyes wander through their yard looking for a place to hide, but can't find anything. "Aren't you cold, Nigar teyze?" I ask. "No, my child, I'm used to it," she replies and it's a done deal: I have to get through it now too.
Sometimes, when Nigar teyze is knotting her carpets, she sings old folk songs. "Sing her the song about your great-grandfather," says her neighbor, who finds it irresistible to always express her opinion without being asked. But this time I'm grateful to her because I really want to know more about the story behind this song. “My great-grandfather loved a girl,” says Nigar teyze, “but her families opposed her love. So the two decided to escape together. The girl's family complained to the gendarmerie and they were caught trying to escape. The girl was taken back to her family, my great-grandfather was imprisoned for kidnapping. In captivity he then sang this song about his lovesickness. When the commander heard him sing, he was lenient. Anyone who loved so passionately and unyieldingly would really have earned the girl. Back in his village, however, their families still had different opinions than the commander: the two never became a couple, but were married to different partners. Decades later, when my great-grandfather and this woman's husband had long since passed away, she still brought my mother apples from her garden: 'For my Yusuf's children,' she said."
Nigar teyze's story makes me forget the cold. Today, at the age of 66, she would have gone collecting apples as a day laborer, but stayed at home when she heard that we were coming. And she herself had been married to a man she did not love, but whom her family had intended for her. Throughout her life she was responsible not only for the household but also for the upkeep of her family. "Women were treated like second-class citizens," she says. "I wish something different for my daughters." She says this without any bitterness as she climbs the stairs, stirs her stew again, which is slowly simmering on the stove, and then disappears into the house. She emerges from her dowry with a hand-knotted pillow that looks brand new. And this cushion, innocent and beautiful, brings Nigar teyze to the topic that burns on her soul: the unequal treatment of men and women.
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