I know that courage is in you.

Have you worn bikinis when you were a child? Or swimsuits? Played in the sea until you were fulfilled? I have not. It was forbidden to wear anything that did not reach my knees from the age of 5-6 for me. I could not wear vests. My best friend dressed as she liked. We were children. Both of us were far from being objectified. So what was my difference? I was 10 and had gone to the beach with my family. I knew my family would not allow me to swim with a swimsuit; I didn’t have a swimsuit, anyway. “Would it do if I wore shorts?” I asked hesitantly. They said no, wear something with long sleeves. So, I did not swim.

As I grew older, the oppression on me increased. I was listening to long speeches about me being obliged to wear the headscarf. Everyone in my family was headscarved. That is how a Muslim should be, they were saying. Yes, I was a Muslim too, but I did not think the headscarf was in the Qur’an. It seemed to me that a man being that affected by my hair was an insult to men first. I became a rebellious child. I did not veil my head but always faced oppression about the way I dressed.

In high school, I was the one with the longest skirt in the classroom. The skirt was reaching my ankles. Then I started to fold the skirt at my waist. When I went out with my friends, I left the house with pants on and changed it in an apartment that I found, with above-the-knee skirts I bought secretly.

This double-life had started to damage me psychologically. When I was 15, I told my family that I was not feeling well and wanted to go to a psychologist. For a long while, they did not take me to one. Finally, they took me to a religious psychologist, which a relative recommended. She was a headscarved woman; the sessions were spent with me listening to words about me being depressed due to moving away from religion, that I needed to go to it. She was telling me that I needed to cover up, giving me graphs of worship. As you can imagine, I did not benefit from it at all.

One day in high school, I saw my father while leaving school. He did not realize that I saw him. “His job must have brought him here,” I thought, paying it no attention. My older sister then told me that my father was following me after school and that I should be careful. From then on, I separated from my group of friends that included both boys and girls before leaving school. My father was angered by me, befriending boys since my childhood. I still can tell my father of neither my boyfriend nor my male friends. I leave the house telling lies. If my father calls when I am with my male friends, I go somewhere else and tell lies like, “I am with Ayşe, dad.” I do not want my friends to hear these lies, to be embarrassed. Lying to my family is giving me pain. Those days that I will be able to tell them, the truth will come as well, hopefully.

I had been threatened by a man who knew that my family was conservative, with the things I was doing getting told to my family. It was the worst episode of my life.

At that time, I thought that I wish I knew that my family would love me regardless of what happened. I was all alone, there was no one I could tell my troubles to.

A few months ago, my father left on a month-long holiday. I had missed him so much. When he returned, the first thing he said to me before even saying hi was, “Your skirt is too short,” right after looking at my skirt that was just above my knees. Thus I did not hug him.

I would like to tell you so much more, but I do not want to badmouth my parents because I respect them. Despite everything, we went through, and they somewhat accept me. Telling even a little part of my story made me feel better. I hope this makes someone who reads it feels better. I struggled. I know that courage is in you, as well. You will not walk alone.

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