Cemile Çevik was a child bride who was pushed into marriage before the age of 17 and subsequently suffered years of systematic violence.
Child marriage remains an ongoing challenge in Turkey and reflects a pattern of gender inequality that reinforces stereotypical roles for girls and curtails their education, compromises their health, and exposes them to the risk of violence and poverty.
Turkey has one of the highest rates of child marriage in Europe, with an estimated 15% of girls married before the age of 18 and 2% married before the age of 15, according to data from Girls Not Brides, a global partnership of more than 1,300 civil society organisations working to end child marriage.
Currently living in Turkey’s Kurdish-majority province of Van (Wan), Cemile Çevik spoke to Jin News and shared her story of being a victim of child marriage, as well as the one fond memory from that time to which she still clings.
‘I didn’t know anything when I got married’
Cemile was married at the age of 16 and was subjected to violence and harassment for years afterwards, along with difficult life circumstances.
”I was a child when I got married. I didn’t know anything. I started baking during the first week of my marriage. I baked bread, made cheese, looked after my child, did the housework and prepared the dinner. I weaved rugs in the winter season. It was very difficult. I did all the work, but didn’t get any ‘thank you’ or any reward. I had to live with violence and insults throughout my marriage”, she said.
“If I had the awareness I have now back in those days, I would not have married. My grandchild is 20 years old. I think she is still a child. I became a mother when I was 17. At that time, there was no hospital or doctor. Women used to give birth at home, under very difficult conditions It was difficult to raise a child”.
‘We thought the world consisted of our village’
”We could not go out of the village. We thought the world consisted of our village”, Cemile said.
“I was very curious about the city life, but I had no opportunity at that time. My house was torn down after the Çaldıran earthquake and I lived in the city of Van for a while. It was the first time I had ever experienced life in the city”.
‘I used to dream of singing on Radio Yereva’
After Cemile gained awaraness of freedom, she divorced her husband and lived with her son. Since divorcing her husband as an adult, she has moved forward and left the dark years of her life behind.
Unfortunately, the dark days of her childhood still lurk in her memory. However, there is one thing she recalls as the only beautiful memory from those years, and that is Radio Yerevan.
“There was little Dengbêj [Kurdish music] in the village at that time. It was not on TV or radio either. In our village only one house had a radio. They would put the radio in the window and turn on Radio Yerevan”, she said.
“All the villagers used to come together to listen to Radio Yerevan. We used to listen to Êyşe Şan, Karapête Xaço and Mihemed Arif Cizrawî. I loved those songs very much and I admired them. I used to dream of singing on Radio Yerevan”.