Wednesday, 3 December 2008

2. Bahjat

Bahjat, what a bitch, she has everything! She’s beautiful, she’s loved, she’s free – she could be rich if she minded – she used to be, or at least she used to live with some kind of unlimited credit for what matters: trendy clothes and restaurants. Again I have to root her story in the roaring 90s (maybe one day in the future someone will remember the 00s as not complete 00?). Number seven and the first girl in a Moroccan family of eight in some northern French suburb, like other immigrant girls she fought against her destiny by studying hard in high-school – she was a real no fun and no fantasy girl then, nothing else mattered but school, basket-ball and American literature (the chance to find a passionate and contagious teacher in the post-industrial quasi-war zone were she grew up!) With a father who was brought from Morocco at seventeen to work in a factory with all the other guys of his village before being dumped after thirty years of dedicated and unskilled work, a mother who didn’t speak French since she hardly ever left the block where all the women of he same village had come later to get married with the guys, two brothers in jail and as only perspective a queue in front of the unemployment office, - she knew she’d run away at the first break.

It came with an opportunity of an au-pair job in London in another Moroccan family, some kind of far away relatives. Bahjat convinced her father with the promise of coming back speaking English fluently, then initiate brilliant studies ending up with a teaching diploma that would allow her to be a life-long state employee. Wasn’t so hard, her father had a soft spot for his first born daughter and knew she couldn’t get better if she’d stay home (he would still miss his Sunday shaving ritual). The brothers had more difficulties to accept her departure – a mix of misunderstanding, jealousy and macho stubbornness (a couple of them would afterward happily benefit from her new life). The all thing resolved when one of the brothers who just started to grow a beard invoked the Holy Qur’an to keep the woman in his place (that was when Muslim fundamentalism started to reach Europe), that resulted in a serious beating by an infuriated mother who hadn’t say anything so far. She screamed to the baffled family that she would have no bearded in the family as long as she’d be alive, and that Bahjat would go. Bahjat’s mother knew that her daughter would never come back of course.

(to be continued...)

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