Synthesis report – Invisible Engines of Change and Self-sacrificing Tradition-breakers: Mixed and Transnational Families in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey

Download the report

in PDF or XML format

The research on mixed families in Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey has presented a rather gloomy picture of societies in all three countries, marked by the low levels of acceptance of otherness, sometimes latent and sometimes openly displayed racism and xenophobia, and widespread stereotypes and prejudices against the immigrants. On the personal level, there is a problem of (at least initial) rejection of the mixed family by the parents and relatives. This is above all the case with the parents of local female partners, who in the majority of cases disapproved of the fact that their daughters were marrying foreigners. In the most extreme cases (usually if the immigrant partner was black or a Muslim), all contacts between parents and the mixed couple were cut off. However, in most cases the strained relations improved in time, when the personal qualities of the immigrant partner overpowered the distrust based on general group stereotypes. A birth of a child is the most important landmark after which the mixed marriages are usually accepted by all parents and family relations reach an acceptable modus vivendi.

On the social level, the rejection of otherness is manifested most clearly in the fields of employment and education. The male immigrants rarely have jobs corresponding to their qualification and work in professions shaped by their ethnicity. They are often victims of discrimination on the labour market – Africans because of their race and Muslims because of their names and religion. The situation is quite different with the female immigrants. Those who are employed outside home usually have jobs in line with their education and qualification. On the whole, the wives of foreign origin encounter less social resistance than foreign husbands. One reason is that they seem to be willing to sacrifice much more to “blend in” the dominating society. The second reason is the still predominantly conservative and patriarchal nature of societies in all three countries.
The foreign husbands are thus seen as a threat – not just as someone coming to take “our” jobs away, but also “our women.” In contrast, the foreign wives are coming here to “become one of us.” This is especially evident in Turkey, where women who have married Turks rarely work outside their homes, have very limited contacts with people outside (their husbands’) families, often change their religion and bring up their children without any contact with the culture, language and religion of their home countries. In short – women do all in their power to become invisible for the society.

Rejection and prejudices are also very visible in the education system. Children from mixed families whose otherness is visible (black or darker skin colour, a different name – especially if it is a Muslim name in Bulgaria or Greece) are often stigmatised by other schoolchildren. They are verbally and sometimes physically abused and rarely find help and support among teachers and principals. To prevent this, parents often deliberately select names, which are considered to be in line with the local traditions. The children are most often brought up by stressing the local culture, religion and language and neglecting those of the immigrant partner (this is much more often the case with immigrant wives than husbands). In some cases, the result of such decision was the child’s deliberate and firm rejection to be associated in any way with the nationality and other identity markers of the immigrant parent.

The predominantly negative attitudes towards immigrants (especially those from certain countries or regions) have been reflected also in the work of various state institutions. Although the majority of immigrant respondents stated that they had no problems with the official institutions, this partially comes as a result of the fact that they largely avoid contacts with them and that such matters are usually handled by the local partner. However, some respondents did complain over the delays in obtaining various documents due to racist attitudes of civil servants and complications caused by cumbersome bureaucratic procedures. African immigrants said that they were victims of discrimination regarding the employment and unprovoked police checks of documents. In most drastic cases, some were victims of violence and abuse at police stations in the past.


    related articles

    • None


      No tags were found that match the criteria given.