Table of Contents
2. Summary of “The Frozen Waterfall“
3. About the Author
4. The Cultural Background
5. Selda‘s Way to a New Identity
6. The Parent‘s Role
Migration and cultural diversity are a part of today‘s everyday life. Due to facilitated rules and regulations of immigration in nearly every European country, the variation of different cultures brought in by immigrants increases. Sometimes, the differences implicate frictions between native people and ‘new arrivals‘ since there often are too varying merits and values that collide - the so-called cultural clash develops.
Gaye Hiçyilmaz, being herself a Turkish immigrant in the UK, wrote about the problems of migration, especially from the view of an 12-year old girl, in her novel ‘Frozen Waterfall‘ and explains explicitly, but still in a restraint way the development of the girl‘s new identity, after moving from Turkey to Switzerland with her family.
In this term paper, the changes in the girl‘s mind and in her family will be examined. Before, the cultural background of the book respectively the story are to be outlined.
It is not possible in a paper of this extent to analyse every given rudiment, conflict or background in the book, therefore, I will bring into focus only the main character Selda‘s changes and the role of her parents.
2. Summary of “The Frozen Waterfall“
12-year-old Selda moves with her mother and two sisters from Turkey to Switzerland, where her father and two brothers already lived and worked for several years. There she has to struggle along with a new language, new people and a whole new culture. While her older sisters have no problems in integrating themselves in their new classes at school, Selda cannot conquer the barriers between herself and her classmates. However, after a while, she finds special friends: Her classmate Giselle, daughter of a rich industrialist, but neglected by her parents, and Ferhat, a Turkish boy, who lives with his father in Switzerland illegally. They help Selda coping problems with her father‘s attitude, prejudices at school and the foreign language. With her friendly and brave behaviour and her cleverness, she supports and encourages her new friends with their struggles in life in return. Finally, Selda is able to make a new successful beginning and finds a new identity that includes both her Turkish roots and a modern, western lifestyle.
3. About The Author
Gaye Hiçyilmaz was born in 1947 in Surbiton, in the south of England and studied at the University of Sussex.1 She spent several years with her Turkish husband and her four children in Ankara, Turkey.2 There she developped her understanding of life, culture and politics of this country , which is the background for the novels “Against the Storm“ and “The Frozen Waterfall“.
3Her seven years in Horgen, Switzerland, had an great impact as well and gave her an inspiring background for the latter novel. Now, she lives in Kent, England.
4. The Cultural Background
Families moving to another country due to their working situation is a common phenomenon for more than 50 years now. Especially in Europe, where the entry requirements were loosened by the governments of countries that are part of the European Union, a working mobility has raised. Like in Selda‘s case, many guest-workers are forced to leave their home country due to economic necessity.4 They promise themselves that there will be no pressure of unemployment and poverty anymore in the new country. As a result, the individuals, which are mostly the fathers and brothers of the family, get mobilized to preserve the family.5
Since the early 50s of the 20th century, many islamic labour migrants moved especially to Switzerland. With approximated 440 000 muslims in the year 20076 the islamic religion is now the second most frequent religion in Switzerland. The moving to Switzerland was simplified by the “Bundesgesetz über Aufenthalt und Niederlassung der Ausländer“, the so called Saisonnerstatut“ from 1934, which permits working immigrants to stay there for 11 months. The government‘s plan was to attract cheap foreign workers to increase the economic growth, however, without integrating the workers in social life.
This trend of moving to Switzerland with the aim of improving your financial situation, but without becoming part of the Swiss people and with the motivation to return, sustains till today. Nevertheless, this attitude has many other religious and social reasons that will be discussed to some extent in the following paragraph.
Many guest workers, just as Selda‘s father, see the country they work in only as an ‘employer‘. There is no striving for becoming a part of the society or culture, as the gap between the own and the foreign culture seems to be too huge. In the muslim culture, adopting the new cultural elements is seen as a fraud against the mother country.7 The aim is to continue to identify oneself with the roots of the ‘old‘ culture. The collective self-perception, that contains all cultural elements and ideals, and the national pride lead to a dissociation of the citizens of the new country that are non- members of this culture. Quite often, this alienation concludes with a pejorative attutide towards members of the other culture.8
Furthermore, the collective identity of the working immigrant is affected by the on-going contact only to like-minded people. This means that the members are strongly influenced by their subculture. This is clearly evident with Selda‘s father. He prefers to stay in contact with other turkish men, preferentially from a higher esteemed social level, e.g. the Imam Adnan Hoca. He avoids any connection to the Swiss, and as a result avoids to adopt a new identity which would have the consequence of losing your status in your own culture. In Selda‘s father‘s eyes, Adnan Hoca has reached, what a successfull Turkish man in another country can achieve. In the Turkish society, every decision a man does, has to be for the best of the Turkish people and practises charity. In an opinion poll, 70 % of the Turkish participants agreed on this fact.9 Adnan Hoca is an Imam, a person who, in the new country, helps immigrants to orientate themselves in the country and shows them how to keep their traditions alive anyway. This means that the working immigrants try to retain specific elements of identification with the home country and sometimes try to integrate these in the new identity as an immigrant. However, some positive aspects of the new culture and country can be adopted as well.
Despite of the help a Imam can give, many immigrants become dependent on him, who in turn has the chance to make the best profit out of this situation.
Furthermore, Imam Adnan Hoca is conservative, reactionary Turk. He is against the reforms kemal (= teacher, leader) Ataturk made. Ataturk broke with the traditional Islamic law in 1917. Since then, Turkey had a fully secular legal framework taken from Swiss civil and Italian penal codes. The Sharia, which is the Sacred Islamic Law, was not part of turkey‘s legal code anymore. However, some parties, e.g. the Selametci that Adnan Hoca is a member of, always try to get it back which arises an on-going conflict between the islamic, radical ‘low society‘ and the western ‘high society‘.10 They are against secularization, the seperation of state and church and the equality of women. Turkey was the first muslim country that joined the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women in 198511 and that encouraged women to continue their education and gave them rights to testify in court.12
The reactionary parties believe, that the Westernization weakened clan identities with allegiances for mutual aid and defence and extended families and brought rules and regulation of the western society to the country, that do not fit their islamic rules. The Family Names Act from 1935 is one example of the westernization: every clan or family had to adopt a family name, which was unusual in Turkey since then.13
2first page of “The Frozen Waterfall“
4Einwandererfamilien, p. 10
5Einwandererfamilien, p. 13
7Kollektive Identität türkischer Migranten in Deutschland, p. 14
8Kollektive Identität türkischer Migranten in Deutschland, p. 7
9Kollektive Identität türkischer Migranten in Deutschland, p. 21
10Islamic Family Law in a changing world, p. 27
11Islamic Family Law in a changing world, p. 28
12Islamic Family Law in a changing world, p 26
13Islamic Family Law in a changing world, p. 31