Malatya is the world capital of apricots. Orchards full of stout apricot trees surround the Turkish city. On some downtown streets you can smell apricots on the breeze. There are bazaars dedicated to apricots, giant statues of apricots crown major intersections, there are apricot telephone booths, ATMs as apricots.
Malatya is in the largely poor, conservative eastern interior of Anatolia and apricots define many of the poorer lives here – particularly of young women, who often drop out of school at 14 or 15, work in apricot processing and packing factories until they have enough for a dowry and get married young – often at 15, 16 or 17. They start having kids: families of nine or 10 are not uncommon and before long the lives of their daughters resemble theirs. Domestic violence is common, as is drug abuse.
But some girls in Malatya have found a way to break this cycle – football. Ikranur Sarigul, 17, grew up with her nine siblings in a two-bedroomed house in Kiltepe, a low-income, conservative neighbourhood on the edge of Malatya. Breakfast was often just a few olives and she usually had no money for food during the day, while dinner might be some roasted onions. None of Ikranur’s five sisters had graduated from high school. Her elder sisters were married by 16 or 17.
Ikranur’s parents worried about her; they were strict. At 10, she used to watch kids playing football in the street and it captivated her, but her family told her that football is for boys. But by 11 Ikranur was taking any opportunity to sneak off and play. When her family found out she’d been playing football they would yell at her and confiscate her shoes. It was frustrating. “I wanted to do what I love and I fell in love with football,” she says.
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