Veiled PAGE

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Caros Culture Shock

I followed Rana into an almost empty room. On one wall there were three strangely shaped cushions and behind them three high cupboards. Two other black ghosts were sitting on a bench. Rana sat down beside them and signaled to kneel in front of them. One of the women handed me an iPad-like display that repeated: 'You will obey the word and subordinate yourself completely'. Then Rana picked up another display and wrote:

"This display is yours. From now on, it's the only way for you to communicate. You're strictly forbidden to speak. If you do, you'll be gagged and beaten."

I was frozen in terror. Well, I thought I'd keep my mouth shut now. They meant what they said. When I tried to write an answer on my display, I read:

"You never have to answer when you're ordered. All you have to do is obey." I was beginning to get scared.

"Go with Fatma next door. She's gonna redress you." I followed this strange woman and appeared on my display:

Take the clothes off! I responded as quickly as I could. She handed me a black oma panty, which reached down to my feet and up to my navel. He was buttoned at the crotch. Then came a shirt, also black, with long sleeves, which stretched from my neck to my knees. I continued with a black headscarf so that only the face of me remained. Then black opaque socks and arm warmers, which she pulled over the sleeves of my shirt. The gloves were pulled over the cuffs so that I was completely covered in black except for my face. The next garment was an overhead abaya with butterfly sleeves. The sleeves were prevented from slipping up by pulling the loops attached to the sleeve of the Abaya over the middle fingers. She carefully pressed plugs into my ears with short cables hanging from them.

"You will only hear the recitation of the Qur'an and the voices of your future husband and sons," she said. Then I was ready for the niqab. A few moments later my blue eyes disappeared forever behind a black narrow grid. Now she put a big heavy cloth over my head and a golden clasp in front of my chest tied it. Finally, my feet were measured.

I was deaf, half blind and silenced under the threat of punishment. I trembled with fear as we went back to the others. I was now the fourth black ghost. A faceless cone. Soon I got hot under all the heavy fabric and also I inhaled through the thick veil some of my stale air. They led me to one of the big pillows. I had my pants taken off again. I had to kneel with my thighs wide apart to glide slowly into the pillow. There was a sucking noise and I felt myself being fixed up to my neck. They held a cloth over my mouth and I disappeared.

When I woke up again, I had breathing tubes in my nose and an inflatable gag with a stomach tube in my mouth. I could neither hear nor see nor speak, every movement was impossible for me because of the pillow, and yet I did not panic. I found peace by myself. I felt that it was none of my business and I had all the time in the world. Eventually, I saw a thin, foggy, white line in front of me. Eons later I realized that it was a treadmill with signs I couldn't understand and strangely enough it moved from right to left. I heard a very quiet sound from afar. It reminded me a little of the howling of a cat. My whole life I only knew how to accelerate and here and now I was completely slowed down. And yet, I was completely satisfied with my fate. I could have stayed here forever. I had no sense of time now. The writing on the treadmill became clearer, it was Arabic and at the same time, the howling became vocal. The clearer I could hear and see, the deeper I sank into my little world and soon reached a point of total passivity. I wasn't even aware of it or what was happening to me. My new religion poured into this emptiness, the original Koran opened up to me. In other words, I became a real Salafi Muslimah. To lead a life in secret, to be Allah's devotional servant, to be an obedient wife to her husband and mother of his children.

Three weeks later.

Wrapped in my veil, I was awakened by the muezzin's call to the Fajr. I prayed and ran to the bathroom for a shower. Then I put on clean clothes. Things had to go fast. When I finished, I was an anonymous, faceless cone. It was a great challenge for me in all these veils. In the housework, I wore thick rubber gloves over the satin gloves, whereby I had hardly more feelings in the fingers. It was terrible to look at everything through a narrow slit and also there laid a transparent fabric over it. Tight enough to make my eyes invisible to outsiders, but the little I could see enabled me to be immersed in a grey, colorless light. I inhaled my used, hot air again and again caused by the thick veils in front of my face. That robbed me of a lot of energy. The heat and shortness of breath made me work at a slow pace. And if I was too fast, I'd faint. It all felt like a hot, dense wall of fog. I crawled through the day like a snail. As I was already permanently busy with housework and praying from five o'clock in the morning, in the evening I was exhausted and dog-tired falling down to bed. Easiness was a beautiful memory. Rana instructed me lovingly but relentlessly in my daily routines. After the Maghrib I no longer had to work, instead, I was allowed to study the holy Koran. I was a musician and missed the music, but Rana only wrote succinctly:

"Always act in honor to Allah! Every renunciation, every heavy burden and the heat under the veils are nothing against the torments that await you in the Djahannam. No matter what you do. Say it loud enough every time that I can hear it: 'In honor of Allah'!" To my astonishment I submitted; resisting all that seemed to me to be more and more suspect, totally impossible. I delved deeper and deeper into my new life as a Muslimah and my role as a submissive and decent woman of a Salafi Imam.

I sometimes thought about the loss of my freedoms, like music, clothes, studies, my self-determined life in general. But I soon felt only shame, not longing. I tried to forget about Caro! The Western woman, who determined everything in her life herself and subordinated nothing and nobody, had now become an obedient, submissive servant of Allah and the family. I stopped thinking about my old life and got more and more used to the new life, I started to love it and was looking forward to my marriage with Kemal Khan. So I only fulfilled my duties quietly and submissively. Ora et labora! Inshallah!

I was not allowed to see my mother and my new brother before the wedding, I suffered a lot from this. I wrote Rana how much I longed for my mother. But she refused. The next day I begged again. But she wrote No again and ordered me to stop begging. When I still begged, I got to experience for the first time in my life the feeling of a cane on my bare bottom as it landed on it ten times with momentum. I quickly realized what a hard school meant. I had to sleep on my stomach for two weeks.

And yet every night Rana came to me and rubbed my sore ass with healing paste. All of this just to make it very clear to me that with my marriage Rana will be my mother, whom I had to serve and obey until her last day.

For weeks I heard my voice again on Friday when I pronounced the Shahada. My name's Zada ever since - Lucky girl. One more week until my Kemal embraces me.

Like every morning I walked into the kitchen to prepare Kemal his breakfast. I would wait on his mother, Rana until I was his wife. We were not separated by fifty meters and yet I was not allowed to join my lover. That was tough.