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Leyla Murshudova, #femdefender from Azerbaijan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Olga Beletski.
Leyla Murshudova, #femdefender from Azerbaijan. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Olga Beletski.

"My brother threatened to kill me"

Leyla Murshudova from Azerbaijan was forbidden by her family to work. But she defied the threats from relatives and society and choose her own path. Now, she is committed to women human rights issues.

“Imagine being surrounded by screaming, arguing and fighting every day. That’s what it was like to grow up in my family. I had no choice but to go my own way. It’s enough for me to see the kind of life my brother and his wife have to know that I never want to get married. I told my mum that I haven’t found anyone I want to share my life with yet. But she thinks that I can get married anyway, that love can grow with the years.

I come from a small, prejudiced community. When I finished my studies in town everyone expected me to move straight back home. My family forbade me to work. If I didn’t get married soon, my neighbours would think I wasn’t a virgin. My brother threatened to kill me if I didn’t do as they said.

But I decided to ignore them. I ran away. I went back to town and got a job at a company selling work uniforms. Not many young women get the chance to study in Azerbaijan, at least not in the rural areas. From my old street it’s only me and one other person who’s gone on to study. A childhood friend is working, but she has to give all her income to her father. As for the sons, everyone takes it for granted that they’ll study and get a job.

When do you feel brave?I’m always brave! When people tell me that something’s too difficult for me simply because I’m a young woman, I say “How am I to know somethings’s difficult if I’ve never tried to do it?”

Very few people see young women as real people, we’re more like slaves to them. ”What can women do?” I’m so tired of that. I can do anything! My friend sent me a link to the Young Women’s Peace Academy. Before that I didn’t know much about women’s rights. I applied and got in. It’s perfect for me. I’ve met femdefenders and been inspired. Now I’ll start getting involved in women’s issues too. I want all women to be free to live however they choose.

Today, I think my family’s proud of me. My mum thinks that one day I’ll be something grand. My brother makes sure I get by and is happy for me that I’m doing what I want to do. This inspires me to fight for the rights of young women even more!”

Told by Leyla Murshudova.
Written down by Olga Beletski

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Updated in: 2015-11-20