Azerbaijan International

Summer 2003 (11.2)
Page 12

Readers' Forum
Don't Make My Mistake

This is the first time I've ever written a letter like this and dared to express my fears, mistakes and feelings so sincerely from the depths of my heart. I write with a pen name here because many people know me in Baku. I hope you'll understand.

Now I'm living in the country that so many young people in Azerbaijan dream about. Before coming here to the United States, my expectations were completely different. My naivete and misunderstandings about the American reality and Western values led me to make enormous mistakes in my life.

Let me speak from personal bitter experience. For many Azerbaijanis, America seems like a carefree country-a place where you can do whatever you want and where all your dreams come true. For me, America was a land of alcohol, cigarettes, a land where you could try drugs and have sex with anyone you wished. Some American men, as well as westernized Azerbaijanis, have contributed to these misconceptions.

But after living here some time, I realize that my perceptions about America were nothing more than ideas gleaned from movies and stories told by people, who simply lied to get something. Many young girls don't know the real situation here across the ocean and naively accept what they hear as truth.

I realize now that America is basically a conservative country. The American style of life that you see in the movies is not real. The things that our youth try to imitate simply don't exist anywhere, even in the U.S. itself. Blindly trying to imitate these things, we don't become "western"-we become nothing. In America, people strive to preserve traditions, build strong families and pass down heritage and customs through the generations-just as we do in our country. People are basically the same everywhere and want similar things in life-family and love.

People treat themselves with respect in the West and the majority follow conservative life styles. Not a single woman here would allow a man to treat her the way that many of our women allow themselves to be used. Sadly, we often mistake this lack of respect for our freedom. Unless we have respect for ourselves, how can we gain the respect of others?

We have forgotten the wisdom of people. We lie to our parents. The price we pay is our future, I know what I'm saying-I've ruined mine. It takes meeting a special person that you've always dreamed about to understand this. But then it's too late.

I only wish that this letter could help some of our young people not to be naive and repeat my mistakes. Don't let it happen, don't let anybody use you or humiliate you. Here I've begun to realize how much I have lost in life. Here I've begun to appreciate the honor and dignity that I grew up with. Here, I don't have to lie to my parents anymore, but I have to lie to myself now to hide from the truth.

Many things change, but dignity and respect, and simple things like family and love are basic to life everywhere-in Baku and in America-alike.

Jamila, 24
Studying for my Master's degree in the US

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