Written by Basak Buyukcelen
Hanim, a woman in her early 20’s, raised in a traditional and religious family, is married to Abdullah, a friend of her father’s from the mosque. She, as of tradition, started wearing a headscarf long before she reached puberty. Pulled out of school at 3rd grade, she was sent to Qur’an school and received strict religious education, which suppressed her inquisitive character and shaped her as a mousy and bashful woman. Not knowing any man other than her husband, Hanim was arranged to marry Abdullah, an extremely traditional and religious man in his early 30’s, who had divorced his first wife because she could not bear a child. He works in a factory in very early and late shifts, spending most of his time at the factory.
Hanim works as a housekeeper for a professional couple on weekdays. She has the key to the house and finishes her work before the couple comes home. She never met the man of the house and is barely in contact with anyone outside of her home.
One day, Hanim goes to work -a modern looking, well decorated, two-bedroom apartment- and she in shock realizes that the man of the house, Emre, whom she had never met before, is sleeping in the bedroom. Since she is not supposed to be in contact with any man other than her husband, she restricts her duties to the kitchen- a separate area but adjacent to the living room. Hanim avoids Emre for as long as she can. Emre is an assistant professor of sociology and a writer, who researches about the status of religious and traditional woman in the society. He breaks his leg and since his common-law partner is abroad for a series of conferences, he is restricted to stay home for the healing period.
Emre wakes up and slowly goes to the living room through a long hallway. Although he greets Hanim without entering the kitchen, he gets no response in return. Like a scared little animal, Hanim hides in the kitchen as if this is the first man she has ever seen. When she is done with her chores in the kitchen, she sticks her head out the kitchen entrance and sees a leg in a plaster cast resting on a chair. Quickly going to the bedroom to tidy up and to keep avoiding Emre, she eavesdrops on a phone conversation and hears the lady of the house is gone for a few weeks and Emre will be home for at least a month. She starts biting her nails with distress.
Still bewildered, she comes to the living room where Emre rests in his study area.
Looking at Hanim, appraising her intently, Emre realizes she would provide excellent material for the book he is working on: “Women in Islam”. Focusing on the ways tradition and religion have crushed low-income women, he recognizes that Hanim presents great opportunity to study and research. Moreover, he sees the chance to educate Hanim and guide her towards liberation. Hanim, on her part, assiduously avoids interaction with Emre. He tries to start a conversation, to no avail.
Hanim returns to her home: a tiny, old, poorly furnished one- bedroom slum house. Lost in thought, she feels unsettled, worried about how she will spend the next month in the same house with Emre. She is in the kitchen performing her usual duties, when Abdullah comes to her and asks if she had talked to the lady of the house to ask for a raise; Hanim mumbles, knowing the lady will not be back for a while. Hanim fears Abdullah will learn about Emre’s presence.
Next day, Hanim goes to the bus stop close to her home. Waiting for the bus to arrive, she looks at a group of 3 women who wear the hijab, a modern looking and fashionable yet strict way of purdah. These women, coming from traditional and religious backgrounds like Hanim, lead significantly different lives. Hijab instructs women to tightly cover their hair and body except the face and the hands. Fashionable as it is, hijab is popular amongst believers. Hanim, on the other hand, following the Islamic scholarship, dresses in the least conspicuous manner, but covets this modernism.
One of the women tells the other two that she is back from a two-week family visit. Hanim gets closer to these women, listens to the woman rambling on about how she got a two-week vacation- even though she hasn’t fulfilled the minimum one- year work requirement- and how they treat her with respect, now that she is wearing the hijab. She describes how hijab changed her world, brought her status in society, and how she is thrilled to be a member of the congregation. The others concur and the group keeps talking until the bus arrives.
Over the next two days, Hanim burrows herself in house duties, both at work and at home, in order to stay away from trouble as much as she can. Emre cannot move around easily, and he is modest enough not to ask Hanim to serve him. She is acutely aware of his needs, however, and feels increasingly sympathetic. She begins serving Emre breakfast and lunch, preparing coffee for him, and volunteering her help.
Next morning, as Hanim opens the front door of Emre’s apartment, she hears a woman screaming inside the home. While she is hesitant to walk in, Emre hears Hanim and beckons her. As she walks in, she sees that the TV is on and Emre is watching a film in the living room. Hanim looks at the screen and sees a few women wearing black chadors in a hospital. This Jafar Panahi film, ‘Dayereh’, attracts Hanim and she feels compelled to watch it for a while. Emre perceives Hanim’s interest and he is happy, anticipating that this film could open a window for communication. He starts telling Hanim the story of the women in the film: ‘Solmaz just gave birth to a girl and is at risk of being divorced by her husband because she didn’t have a boy. Solmaz’s mother, not wanting to believe it is a girl, asks the nurses repeatedly to check the gender of the baby. The older woman is afraid that the father’s relatives will be furious and will convince him to divorce his wife.’ As Emre tells the story of Solmaz, Hanim comments that they should be happy for having a child regardless of gender. Emre asks Hanim if she has a child of her own and Hanim tells him they want to have children but, so far, God has not granted this wish. As Emre keeps asking questions, Hanim tells that her husband divorced his first wife because she was infertile.
Having opened up for the first time, Hanim looks more comfortable moving around the house, not hesitating to walk into whatever room Emre is in. Later on, when Hanim brings lunch to Emre’s study, he asks her whether she ever went to school. Hanim explains that she was sent to Qur’an school, and this develops into a conversation about young girls covering themselves starting from childhood.
That night, cooking dinner for Abdullah and herself, Hanim realizes that their gas canister is empty. Abdullah is furious to hear that they had run out so quickly, once again. Yelling at her for not being frugal, Abdullah orders Hanim to talk to her boss and ask for a raise. She explains how the lady is working late hours and that she is not home before Hanim leaves work. Abdullah tells her to wait until she comes home and talk to her.
That night in his dream, Emre is watching a puppet show alone at the theatre. There are human-sized puppets on the stage, wearing black chadors. When the light falls on the puppeteer, Emre realizes that the puppeteer is himself. He tries to call out to the puppeteer but can’t make a sound. Distracted by the focused light, the puppeteer (Emre) loses control of his puppets. The single member of the audience (also, Emre) runs to the stage and witnesses the puppets transform into human beings who then run away in their chadors. Emre wakes up in distress.
The next morning Hanim rides in a packed bus, standing in front of two women sitting together. One of them wears the hijab; the other has her hair down. The one without the hijab calling the other Enise, tells her that she received a visit from two women in hijab and that they offered her a job at the municipality if she starts wearing the hijab. Enise tells the other that her neighbor received the same visit few months ago, and she started her new job right away. As the bus gets more crowded, Hanim has to move forward leaving the two women behind.
Emre detects a shift in Hanim’s mood. Realizing something might be wrong, Emre asks how she is, but Hanim cannot tell him about her trouble. Emre continues to ask until, eventually, she mumbles about the possibility of a raise. Emre assures her that he will give her a raise starting that month. Hanim thanks him numerous times, brings him a cup of coffee with a smile on her face. Emre, seizing the opportunity, returns to the conversation about Hanim and her husband being childless. Emre reminds her that Abdullah didn’t have any kids from his first marriage either, and that this is unlikely to be a mere coincidence. Not wanting to talk about it, Hanim says that she has much work to do, but Emre doesn’t let her go. He tells Hanim that if she wants a child, this is her right. She needs to find a way to talk to her husband about treatment. Hanim says she cannot bring up such topic. Emre asks if she ever talked about this with her mother and learns that her mother took Hanim to a religious healer to solve the matter. Telling her she is not the one with the problem, Emre insists she talks to her mother-if not Abdullah. He believes that her mother, of all people, should understand and help her. Emre brings up the possibility that Abdullah may divorce her as well. This only serves to increase Hanim’s distress.
Hanim returns home and as Abdullah walks in, he asks about the raise. Hanim tells him that she talked to her boss and got the raise. Not appearing appreciative, Abdullah asks her about dinner. After dinner, Abdullah leaves for the mosque. Knitting a baby sweater in the living room, Hanim phones her mother and tells her how she might end up like Abdullah’s ex-wife. Embarrassed and ashamed, Hanim can’t bring herself to ask her mother’s advise about seeing a doctor. Her mother tells her that God will grant them a child when the time comes. Hanim hangs up the phone very upset.
Next morning, Hanim and Abdullah are having breakfast. Abdullah asks Hanim to stop by a copy center to get some documents copied for his insurance, handing her the documents.
Hanim leaves home and takes the bus to the city center. She looks around, slowly passing by a few stores. She stops at a tiny store to buy a bottle of water. The cashier is a young and beautiful girl in the hijab, selling cigarettes and beer to a young man. The cashier’s older brother stands behind her, carefully watching the young man. Hanim grabs the water and when she approaches the cashier, the customer leaves the store and the older brother moves away.
Hanim walks down the street and stops in front of a large four-story store. At the window of the building are mannequins dressed in hijab and modern looking form-fitting blouses, long skirts, and tight topcoats.
The next shop is a big copy center. Inside are a few men doing their routines. Hanim walks in, gives the papers for photocopy and walks to the cashier. A boy at the cashier reaches for his wallet, holding a rolled poster. The young cashier girl (with the hijab), holds on to the rolled poster and slowly starts putting a rubber band on the poster, gently; she acts as if she’s putting on a condom on a penis. Hanim pays and leaves.
Hanim takes the bus, less crowded and sits down. The bus driver seems very cheerful. At every stop, he loudly announces the name of the stop and tells the passengers he wishes that God would help ease their day. Sitting across Hanim, two young university students-in their hijab, make up, torn jeans, converse shoes and iPhones in their hands-giggle at the driver every time he talks.
Hanim spends her workday in her daily chores, while Emre works on his book.
Next morning, trying to get on the packed bus, a man behind her pushes Hanim, but she doesn’t respond. She gets on the bus, standing next to a woman in the hijab. The two women ride on the bus, holding onto the door. Suddenly the bus driver jumps on the brakes and the bus abruptly stops. Hanim and the woman almost fall down. Hanim is shaken. She tries to pull herself together and the woman next to her starts screaming at the bus driver for being negligent. The bus driver says a car appeared in front of them and he had to stop in order to avoid hitting it. The woman keeps yelling at the bus driver, saying that it is his duty to make sure they are safe. She asks the driver whether he bought his driver’s license from the supermarket. The bus driver gets angry and replies that she should mind her own business or take another bus if she is not happy. The woman keeps haranguing the driver. She tells him he should be punished for endangering the passengers and that she will file an official complaint. A young man stands up and gives his seat to her, asking her if she is all right. She, not even thanking for the favor, nervously sits down and demands that Hanim come close to her and hold on tight, saying the driver might do something wild again. Two young women at the back seat-wearing the hijab-talk to the woman, try to comfort her and tell her she has every right to be angry.
Hanim is left out.
Hanim gets off the bus and walk toward the store in the large four-story building she had seen few days ago. She walks in, with a more confident manner. She straightly goes to the fourth floor, as if she had been inside before. A woman in the hijab, very modern looking welcomes her. Hanim starts going through hundreds of choices of headscarves. The clerk asks her if she is considering choosing the hijab instead of the headscarf. Hanim nods. The clerk smiles and with her consistent smile and extreme politeness, calls in another clerk; and both start helping her. While one is showing the headscarves, the other is finding different combinations of fancy and modern looking clothes.
In the store, there are two Hanims. The clerks are dressing one, the real Hanim, and the other-Hanim’s new personality-, ENISE, sits back, and enjoys watching Hanim’s transformation, shifting into Enise. Hanim is not aware of her new personality.
Seeing Hanim hesitate to choose a scarf, the clerk picks one and takes off Hanim’s headscarf, placing a bonnet underneath the hijab, and then tying the new scarf as the hijab. She teaches Hanim how to make sure it doesn’t fall off, move or lose shape. The clerk also says that if she picks one scarf now, they will provide her with a set of matching bonnets as a gift. The other clerk brings form-fitting blouses, long skirts, and a tight topcoat. The first clerk mentions that since Hanim is considering choosing the hijab, they will give her a big discount and that she can pay in installments. The clerk also gives her a lipstick, eyeliner and makeup remover as a gift and puts the makeup on her.
Hanim accepts the offer and keeps her new outfit. She watches herself in front of a mirror; fixes her posture, pushes her shoulders back. Her new personality’s development is complete. Hanim is now, Enise. Before leaving, Enise asks the clerk if she could use the staff washroom. They lead her to a tiny toilet. Enise goes in, perches on the toilet seat and pees, leaving her shoeprints on the seat.
Enise walks down the street and sees a hairdresser. The hairdresser’s windows are completely covered in big prints of photographs of different hijab tying styles. Enise walks in. There are only women inside. One of them is getting a haircut, and the other one is a bride in her wedding dress, getting a bridal hijab. A woman approaches her and Enise asks if they do waxing. The woman smiles and tells her that they not only do waxing but they also wax the ‘private area’ in any shape wanted. The most popular is the moon and star combination, she adds. Enise agrees and they go into a private room.
Enise leaves the hairdresser and goes to Emre’s apartment. Emre is in the living room, curious why she is late and watches the door, with a book in his hand. He sits in the living room, reading a book. Enise walks in and Emre is surprised to see Hanim in her new outlook. Before he could speak, Enise introduces herself, as Enise, the cleaning lady. Emre calls her Hanim, and she corrects him. Her name is Enise. Enise starts her daily chores, moving comfortably around the house, offering Emre tea, taking coffee breaks, trying to open conversations. Emre is like a fish out of water.
In the evening, Enise leaves Emre’s apartment, goes home. She changes her clothes, cooking dinner before Abdullah arrives, transforms back her personality, Hanim. Her posture changes back to the unconfident woman. She goes to the washroom and sees herself in the mirror, with lipstick and eyeliner. She is shocked, washes her face and looks at herself. Her eyeliner leaks under her eyes. She tries to scrape it with a towel. She lifts her skirt and pulls her pants down, in shock sees herself waxed.
Next morning, after Abdullah leaves for work, the alter, Enise is back. She puts on her new clothes, puts her make up on and leaves for work. Waiting in the bus stop, the group of three women in their hijab is gathered as usual and they smile at her. She greets them and they ride on the bus together.
At work, she is very cheerful, humming a song while doing the dishes. Emre carefully observes her all day long. Enise walks around in her tight clothes and skirt, refreshing her make up throughout the day. Emre’s gaze is constantly drawn to her shapely hips.
In the evening, Enise is home. She changes her clothes and gently applies the makeup remover. Abdullah comes and they sit for dinner. While eating, Enise brings up the child issue. She mentions that Abdullah didn’t have children from his previous marriage as well and Abdullah goes mad with the implication that he is infertile and pushes her around. In distress, Hanim’s personality comes up. She doesn’t understand why she is pushed around, begs him to stop. Abdullah asks Hanim, who is supplying her with these ideas. He tells Hanim that she is not smart enough to come up with things like this on her own- that she must be talking to someone. Hanim is puzzled, not remembering what happened earlier.
Next morning, Hanim and Abdullah are having breakfast. Hanim starts telling Abdullah that in her dream, her father takes her to a ship and introduces the captain, Abdullah. Abdullah takes her to a cabin and shows her a big old chest. She opens it and sees a newborn baby inside the chest. Abdullah does not talk to her. He leaves for work.
Hanim walks to the bus stop, and Abdullah secretly follows her. She waits next to the three women in hijab. They don’t recognize her in her traditional clothes.
At work, Hanim dusts the big bookshelf in the living room while Emre rests in his bedroom. She puts aside a pile of books to dust underneath and finds a few DVD’s stashed at the back of the shelf. Taking them out to dust, she sees the DVD covers have pornographic photos. Putting them aside in disgust, she leaves the living room undone.
Few minutes later, Hanim gets her purse, her alter Enise comes up; she puts on her makeup. She takes her headscarf off while placing the bonnet underneath the headscarf, to tie it as the hijab, and Emre walks in. He stares at her. He looks at her hair. Enise tells Emre that she dreamt about him the previous night. Enise begins:” In my dream, my father takes me to a big ship that is about to sail. When I go in, he introduces me to the captain. You. My father kisses me goodbye and leaves while you take me to a cabin. You ask me to sit still and not touch anything until you come back. There’s a big old chest in there and when you leave, I can’t hold back. I open the chest. When I do, the ship sails and I see a baby crying inside the chest. When I lean to hold the baby, you come rushing into the cabin and tell me not to take her out of the chest. You tell me that this baby is actually my own childhood. She was born when I opened the chest. My task is to bring up this child to the age of 18, without taking her out of the chest, but teaching her life by telling her stories, educating her. She will grow up to be a good member of the society; she won’t make the same mistakes I made. She will have a choice in life. If the child gets physically harmed, the same thing will happen to me, because she is me. And I have no choice but to raise her because if I let her go, or take her out of the chest, she’ll die, and so will I.” Emre slowly approaches Enise and touches her hair. They go to the bedroom.
In the bedroom, there are two Enise’s. One is making love to Emre, and the other one, ASLI, a new alter personality. Asli is dressed modernly and doesn’t wear the headscarf. Asli watches Enise make love to Emre, shifting into Asli.
As Asli dresses up, she puts the headscarf around her neck as a scarf.
Asli leaves the apartment. Downstairs, Abdullah waits for her. He sees her with her hair down, jumps on her in rage, starts beating her on the street. Asli starts screaming help. Passer- bys don’t even look at them. One young man interferes and tells Abdullah to stop beating the woman. Abdullah in rage jumps on the man and tells him that this is his wife and he has every right to do whatever he wants to her. The man walks away. Asli screams she doesn’t know him.
Abdullah squeezes the headscarf around Asli’s throat.
*While the credits are rolling*
The sound of children playing in a park is heard in the background.
Some kids are watching the traditional shadow puppet-show, Hacivat and Karagoz, at one corner of a park. The puppeteer is a woman.
A woman is seen from her back sitting in the park, with a double stroller in front of her. She is wearing Hanim’s headscarf.