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17 February 2011

Fatime Ejupi (1926–?) peasant, soldier, councillor.

Fatime was the fourth daughter of a Muslim peasant family in Kosova. Lacking a son, the parents deemed the child to be a boy, Fetah.

Widowed at an early age, the mother was left the difficult task of guiding her son through the rites of boyhood. This was essential in that a widow with only daughters had no right to retain her husband's house and land. She managed to avoid the synét (circumcision) and postponed the search for a bride indefinitely.

In 1944 the 18-year-old Fetah was recruited by Tito's People's Liberation Army to fight the Axis occupation. Only after two years in the army was he examined by a doctor, who declared that he was a woman, and he was discharged.

Back in his village he was appointed to the revolutionary community council where he campaigned for rights for Muslim women, in particular the ending of veils and seclusion.

The village became aware that Fetah was a 'woman'.  In 1951 Asllan Asllani decided to marry Fetah. He was still in male clothing and resisted. Asllan 'seized' Fetah and made her his bride. At the wedding she returned to the name Fatime and changed to wearing the wide harem trousers.

They had a son and two daughters. Fatime later claimed to a journalist that she was content. The mother died without granting forgiveness for the loss of her only son.
  • René Grémaux. "Mannish Women of the Balkan Mountains". In Jan Bremmer (ed). From Sappho to De Sade: Moments in the History of Sexuality. London & New York: Routledge,1989:162-3. Reprinted as "Woman Becomes Man in the Balkans" in Gilbert Herdt (ed). Third Sex, Third Gender: Beyond Sexual Dimorphism in Culture and History. NY: Zone Books, 1994: 270-1.

Fetah was not a typical sworn virgin in that he was raised as a boy from birth.  Grémaux suggests that Fetah switching back to Fatime indicates that the Sworn Virgin tradition was already in decline by the 1950s, however Fatime’s untypicality means that her case does not support the suggestion.

Note that the gender changes are both initiated by men, the father and then Asllan.  Fetah’s only time of choice was that he chose to stay a man after being discharged from the Army.

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