High in the mountains of Bulgaria lies the village of Ribnovo, whose population is overwhelmingly Pomak: a group of Bulgarian-speaking Muslims whose traditions date back to the Ottoman Empire. The mayor estimates that around 70% of the working male population have left to find work in western Europe, leaving the women to make do by themselves.
On a cool July day, Fikrie Sirakova prepares her two children for Quran readings at the mosque. She carefully wraps an embroidered blue headscarf around her daughter’s blonde hair and fastens her shalvari (trousers). The phone vibrates as they leave the house, and a dark-haired man appears on screen. “I want to say hello to my little princess,” chimes Sirakova’s husband, Jamal, who has been working in London for the last five years. Sirakova, 36, is one of the many women in the Bulgarian town of Ribnovo who’ve lost their husbands to unemployment.
“Now all the weight is on women’s shoulders,” says Sirakova. “It is essential that we take over our husbands’ duties.”
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