From hallways to the aisle: Student adjusts to married life

Laura Jones, Staff Writer

During lunch, he takes her to her favorite coffee joint, Starbucks. After school, he picks her up and if she doesn’t have homework, they catch a movie or go out to dinner. They do things that typical high school couples do, but they aren’t girlfriend and boyfriend. They’re husband and wife.

Senior Suzan Abdullah is Muslim, and her family is from Kurdistan, a region which encompasses parts of eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, northwestern Iran and northern Syria. She likes it there, except for the sexist ideas the country holds.  She has visited the country twice, once when she was very small and once in 2004.

“Sexism in Kurdistan is becoming less extreme over time, though it does exist. It only makes me more independent, and my husband and family know not to underestimate a woman,” Abdullah said. “I do not allow unequal treatment between sexes but sometimes it’s just in the blood of my culture to assume women shouldn’t have as many rights.”

Abdullah met Zerevan Emin four years ago, when she was 13 and he was 17. They were at a wedding, where Emin’s cousins introduced them. After that night, things started to move quickly for the two.

Emin’s father came to Texas for a surprise visit once they had been dating for a month.

“His dad brought up the whole marriage thing,” Abdullah said. “I don’t know, it kind of scared me because I was 14 or 15. After that I broke up with him.”

Even though she was scared of the idea of marriage, she decided it wouldn’t keep her from being with Emin. They got back together and the next bridge to cross was telling her parents about their relationship.

“My parents asked me who I was dating and it’s kind of hard in my culture to tell your parents,” Abdullah said. “I told them and they said it was fine to get married, because it’s a sin to have a boyfriend. Either you’re talking to a guy or you marry him, so that was kind of my way of staying with him.”

Abdullah’s sister, Kurdistan Yahia, was there for her throughout the whole experience.

“My first impression of Zerevan was that he was outgoing and nice and made my sister happy, which made me and my family happy as well,” Yahia said

Emin’s parents went to Abdullah’s house to ask her for her hand in marriage, which was followed by an engagement party. Abdullah and her family had to do much planning before her wedding, which the groom’s family usually pays for in her culture.

“If you were to ever have a divorce, you have to have a plan,” Abdullah said.  “You can ask for gold. Everyone in my culture asks for gold – gold belts, gold necklaces, earrings and bracelets, everything. But I didn’t ask for any gold, which is kind of shocking in my culture.”

According to Abdullah, a Kurdish wedding is very different from a traditional American one. The marriage was made official by a Muslim imam.

“The wedding was huge,” Abdullah said. “I think we had 400 to 450 people or something. I wore a traditional American wedding dress. Americans have a ceremony where everyone’s sitting down. Kurdish people go straight to the party, and the people dance and then there’s a singer. The bride and groom do one little dance around, the culture dance, and then cut the cake. I felt very happy during my wedding. Watching my family and friends dance and celebrate the start of a new life for me was special and a memory I will cherish forever. The most special moment was when I was dancing with my father in the center of the dance floor. I put my shyness aside and allowed myself to live in the moment. The sight of my husband dancing with my mom gave me a good feeling inside.”

Yahia said she had a great time at her sister’s wedding, which was in California, where Emin’s family lives.

“Her wedding was gorgeous,” Yahia said. “She had it at the crystal ballroom in San Diego with guests that filled up the whole hall. We took pictures at Coronado Beach and the weather was perfect. We partied in the limo, at the hall, at the afterparty, and until the next day, when we had a big breakfast at her in-law’s as a ‘welcome-to-the-family’ kind of thing.”

However, once they were wed, Abdullah did not change her last name to her husband’s.

“Ever since my grandpa died I didn’t want to ever change my last name,” Abdullah said. “He asked me if I wanted to, but I think he’s okay with me not changing it. That’s not really in our culture – that’s more like an American culture.”

It is tradition for the bride to go live with the groom, which meant Abdullah had to leave her family and move to California to live in a house with Emin and his parents.

Abdullah said it was very difficult to deal with leaving her family back home.

“I had to come down and visit all the time,” Abdullah said. “They would make visits, we would always webcam, and I would call them every day. My family has a very close bond so managing to live without them and adapting to a new environment was difficult.”

She spent the next year with Emin and his parents in California.

“You’re pretty much their daughter,” Abdullah said. “You have to clean everything, cook everything for them because you’re their bride.”

Leaving her family for a year wasn’t only hard for Abdullah; it took a toll on Yahia as well.

“When Suzan moved away it had a big effect on me,” Yahia said. “She’s my best friend and I had no idea what I was going to do without her. As months went by without having her around, I started to make more friends and it got a little easier not having her around. But still it wasn’t the same.”

Now Abdullah is 17 and Emin is 21. They had to move back to Plano so Emin could find a better job than working at a casino, the only one he had in California. However, for Yahia, having her sister back at her house isn’t completely the same.

“At first, it felt a little weird seeing my sister and her husband every day,” Yahia said. “I wasn’t used to it, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with it now and we have a great time together. We’re always getting along and having a good time.”

The family has bonded with Emin. They traveled to Coronado Beach in San Diego, California, and once the family went on a cruise when Abdullah’s brothers were in town.

Abdullah and Emin plan on going to Collin College together next year, and Abdullah is planning what she wants in their future.

“Two boys and two girls after college, just like my family,” Abdullah said. “I want to major in psychology or art because I want to paint. I don’t think he’s sure of what he wants to do yet.”

Until then, Abdullah will live with her husband in her parents’ house, where they have taken her father’s computer room.

“My dad loves it. He always says he would do anything to take care of us, as long as we are in school,” Abdullah said. “We all live together except for my oldest brother and his wife. We are probably going to move out this summer, to an apartment in Plano.”