Turac Ibrahimova, 30, Marneuli

„I was born and brought up in Jandara, this is a borough in the city of Marneuli. I finished school in Jandara. My Georgian was rather poor at the time of learning at school but we were not really supposed to know this language. The situation gradually changed later and it became mandatory to know this language because it is a state language, we need it and so on. After finishing school I enrolled at the Marneuli branch of State University and learned the language bit by bit. When I became a second-year student, I was actively involved in public activities, so I took up the English, Georgian and computer classes.

We had two teachers of the Georgian language at school, both of them were Azeris. They talked to us in the Azeri language during the lessons of the Georgian language and only made us learn poems by heart. We used to learn those poems without understanding their content. When I finished school the only sentence I could say in Georgian was “My name is Turaj Ibrahimova”.

The key motivation for me to learn the Georgian language was to find a job. They said that you would not be able to work unless you knew the state language. Therefore I studied the language. At the same time I love the Georgian language. There is one more girl from my class who knows Georgian. She used to watch soap operas at the Imedi TV channel and learned the language in this way. Only two of us knew Georgian out of 28 children in our class.

I do not come from a well-off family. There are four siblings in my family. We had one TV and only one TV channel available – Marneuli TV, which broadcast only Russian movies and Russian programs. Only news programs and commercials were available in the Georgian language. I learned from the commercials that the television needed a computer literate person. I got the job after I had a job interview. I thought I would have to work only on the computer but they told me on the following day that I was supposed to become a journalist. I started working in May; until October I attended training courses all the time at different televisions in Bolnisi, Kutaisi, Tbilisi etc. I had to come back home in the evening late, at about 9-10 o’clock. My neighbors started gossiping, “Why on Earth should a young girl come back home at this hour?” Besides, our TV office was on the second floor of the tea bar and the neighbors used to gossip about that too, “A young girl is not supposed to enter a tea bar”.

Initially my father did not mind but my neighbors who kept telling him, “why should your daughter come home so late?” persuaded him not to let me go to work. As a result of this pressure my father had an argument with me. Of course, I had to worry a lot, I tried to persuade my father that I was not doing anything wrong. But my father insisted on my being a teacher rather than a journalist. I cried all the time during one month. Even the television director met with my father, talked to him, assured him that Turaji was not doing anything wrong and he could come and see everything by his own eyes if he wished so. I have not had any problems since that time. Sometimes I even came home at 2 a.m.

I have always been interested what kind of people Georgians are and how different they are from us. I made friends with Georgians when I started working in the television and I grew rather fond of them. Rumor had it that the Svans were rather evil and would kill us but currently my best friend is a Svan girl.
In the 90s when Gamsakhurdia announced that Georgia is only for Georgians, one Mkhedrioni unit was deployed in one of the abandoned buildings in our village. They did not let us go anywhere. For example, we could not go to the market or go to other place to do our things. They robbed people, caught women and pulled out their gold teeth. Terrible things had happened. For this reason we thought rather badly about Georgians…

My family has argued with me that it is time to get married, have a baby etc. For the public I am already “an old maid” „I cannot get married any more“. As you know people in our community get married at an early age, they are already married at the age of 18-20. My father also wanted me to marry and not to continue studying: “You are a girl, why do you want to continue studying?” But my mother thought that her child should receive education by all means. She got married at the age of 19 and was not able to study. My mother always supported me both during studying and working. She used to argue with my father that I should study first and get married after that.

Early marriage has long been a problem issue in the Azeri community. I think NGOs should work with parents on this issue. They should inform them that they should not force their children into marriage at an early age. Some families purposefully bring up girls only to give them later away in marriage. They teach them only doing household chores and cooking. The situation has slightly changed in some communities because the population has become more informed, some of them would like to continue studying and so on. Currently more girls continue studying than boys. Even if boys study, they are still more focused on working to earn money to support their families.

I taught the history of Georgia in Kizil-Ajlo school for 4 years. This is the community, where people get married early rather often. I taught the 6th grade. The girls used to come to school wearing high heels. Even though I was 21 then for them I was an “old maid”.

Several months ago, Siqa, a non-governmental organization, offered me to run training courses in rural schools. As part of the training courses I was supposed to explain to children how to be active, not to be afraid, continue studying, realize that marriage was not priority and they would always have sufficient time for that. When I observed the girls’ problems in the villages, I thought that I should work in this direction. Therefore, I would like to pursue my Master’s Degree in Gender Studies.
We’ll see whether I will be able to do that.“