My childhood was over the day I wore a hijab.

Like most women here, I was wearing the hijab with the belief that it is my own decision.

I was 11 years old.

Since I was made to gradually veil until that age, this was not that hard of a decision to make for me. I already couldn’t wear short-sleeved t-shirts, and since I was born, I was prepared for this. I was told that “after you hit puberty, you have to wear a hijab; otherwise, men can be charmed by you, and because of that, you can go to hell.”

Which God could command an 11-year-old child to veil, threaten them with burning just because of a pedophile don’t get turn on? My childhood was over the day I wore a hijab. 

I started drifting apart from the street and the games. Because a girl should be heavy-headed. My clothes were already limiting my actions too much. I accepted that; also, I believed in my parents. Still, my soul was outweighing, and I never wore a hijab as they wanted. Because of that, I was always facing oppression. They told me, ” if you are going to stop wearing a hijab, tell us so we can go by that.” Of course, they weren’t going to go by. They were implying that I was degrading myself to the point where I could do something so embarrassing as taking off my hijab. As I grew up, I began thinking more about some things and understand them better. As I was learning more about religion, I was drifting away from it. I made an effort not to drift away from it because I didn’t want to make my parents sad by being irreligious. In the end, my questioning side won, and I became an agnostic. I’m wearing a hijab, and I’m an agnostic. Still, I’m not talking about this subject too much. I mean, my friends know that I’m not wearing a hijab willingly, but I don’t seem to have problems with it. Because the more I talk about it, I feel under pressure more. The more I talk about it, the more weight I’m carrying is getting more substantial, so I act like I’m not wearing a hijab. 

All the men that I meet keep their distance from me in the first place, but as they get to know me, they show their sincerity. I’m not like how I seemed to be. People who see me for the first time shy away from me. I have to explain to everyone that I’m not like how I seem to be again and again—my friends who walked down the same road as I do take off their hijab one by one. I’m jealous of them, but I don’t tell it to anybody. Because I find hearing these even from my voice difficult. I love my hair, but I have to cover it because I’m afraid of losing my family. I wouldn’t say I like anything that I wear. When my shirt sleeve is a little shorter or when I wear my hijab from a bit of back, I get happy. I get embarrassed while saying these. I love my parents so much; they’re not bad people. It’s just that they were oppressed too, and they’re trying to protect me from going to hell. But still, that doesn’t mean they are innocent.

Believing in a religion doesn’t give those people the right to pressurize other people. 

Next year I will go to another city to study at university. In some way, I will turn my back to my family and tell them that I’m taking off my hijab. They’re going to be so sad, but you can’t make anyone go to your heaven with by force. 

Don’t let anyone make you go to their heaven by force, beautiful women. Just flip your hair and make every place that you’re free, your own paradise. 

(Image: Do Duy Tuan)

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