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Dr Eylem Atakav speaks to BBC Norfolk about “I wasn’t always dressed like this”

Dr Eylem Atakav speaks to BBC Norfolk about our documentary “I wasn’t always dressed like this” in relation to the recent debate over the Veil. Interesting and critical interview!


About Dr Eylem Atakav (Academic Consultant)

Dr Eylem Atakav interview to BBC Norfolk – (on 2:09:20) Aired on 22/09/2013


Next month the University of East Anglia there will be a screening of a new documentary challenging the meaning of the veil for Muslim women. The film is called “I wasn’t always dressed like this”. Dr Eylem Atakav is the lecturer of TV and Film Studies of the UEA and acted as a consultant on the project and spoke to our reporter Kristen Thorn earlier in the week.

Dr Eylem Atakav “It is a 30 minutes film and it focuses on e women’s experiences of wearing the veil and the key message of the documentary is that wearing the veil is about individual choice, it is a personal approach to faith, and personal approach to religion. It is about women’s empowerment rather than all those stereotypical negative implications that are created within the media through really complex and really problematic representations.

I think in all these media representations or speeches given by senior authorities and politicians and so on, there is a key word which is oppression, that women are being oppressed. As you can tell that is a passive sentence, that something has been done to women, they are being oppressed. And I don’t  think it is necessary the Veil that oppresses women that are being talked about, it is the male dominated cultures or patriarchal cultures that oppresses them.”

Kristen Thorn: “And perhaps it is the public perception of what the veil is oppresses them as well, because it is almost become demonised a little bit in public, hasn’t it?”

Dr Eylem Atakav “I agree, but I think public’s perception is mainly coming from what they read in the media, and everyone in the media seems to be talking for women. And the good thing about the film itself is that it actually gives space for women who experience the idea of the veil of covering themselves and the relationship to religion. They talk about their experiences rather than their experiences being interpreted in certain ways by the media or public.”

Kristen Thorn: “You say that the wearing of the veil is a private choice, but it a very public issue. It seems like these issues are always coming up in the media. What impact do you think that has on the women themselves, who choose to wear a veil”

Dr Eylem Atakav “This is an interesting observation and question I think. It depends from one culture, one nation to the other. I mean, one of the things I teach for instance, one of the films I show in the Women, Islam and Media is called “They call me Muslim” is a short documentary as well about a woman in France who would like to wear a veil but it is not allowed to in public spaces and a woman in Iran who do not like wearing the veil and it is not religious at all but has to wear the veil. It’s an interesting take on how people interpretate and women interpretate and come to terms with the idea of covering themselves and their relationship to religion. In Turkey for instance there is an increase level of exploitation of the image of veiled women because the government is allowing now women to enter universities covered and so on.  My personal point of view but again from within the context of scholar is that justifying unreasonable decisions like refusing to take your veil off for instance in a public situation which causes some sort of minor or more significant threat to the public, within the public sphere. I think justifying unreasonable decisions through religion and faith is not necessarily a good thing. But this is what I think coming from a non religious and academic point of view.

Kirsten Thorn: “ What was the experience of working in this film like? You taught quite a lot in the subject, was the film experience an eye opening for you”

Dr Eylem Atakav: “It is, when this woman talks about the relationship between woman and womanhood, their experiences, Islam and the representation of Muslim women in the media that’s when it becomes really interesting for me. Everyone seems to be picking things about religion and what’s right what’s wrong, what’s good for the public, what’s good for the media, or politicians, or policies and so on. At the centre of it are women. They are not necessarily talking about themselves, their experiences and their approaches. But this film gives an idea about what women think or what happens when woman actually speak out about their experiences of wearing the veil. “

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