Freedom requires effort.

Hello. I’m a 17-year-old senior student at high school. I wrapped this strangling rope around my neck at the age of 12. I wouldn’t even be able to answer if they asked me, “What’s religion?” back then. My mother, my big sisters, we’re all in the hijab. Those who belong to such families know that wearing a hijab is like a norm. You think that you’ll eventually get in the hijab when you grow up.

In middle school, I went to an Imam Hatip school since my friends were there, and it was close to our house. Suddenly, all my friends started wearing hijabs; everybody thought, “Eventually, we’ll get in hijab.” With the pressure of my mother and big sister, I had started wearing a hijab too. It was like a game or accessory to me. I wore colorful headscarves every day; it was fun. Then I got into an excellent Anatolian High School. 

Everything had started there. Before you began to talk to people, you had to get yourself accepted; “I’m wearing a hijab, but I’m fun,” “I’m wearing a hijab, but I don’t think that way,” “I’m in hijab, but I like that kind of music.” Even if you don’t actually say these aloud, you have to tire yourself to break down the prejudices of the person in front of you. Even if you have a broad-minded friend circle and secular high school, it starts to tire you after some time. You have to wear tunics, cover your neck and throat in hellishly hot days. If you get smothered and say, “Let me wash my face,” you have to do it without ruining and wetting your hijab. It’s hard to do all of these without having any moral motivation. But to me, it is the hardest when your look doesn’t match your ideas. It tires me so much. I don’t want to carry a political symbol on my head. I want to be able to wear sweatpants and t-shirts when I go to the grocery store. I want to wear those shorts I want; put on the nail polish I want. 

I opened this issue to my mother and father during the winter break. My mother immediately started crying. As I tried to explain that I am an individual, I got the answer, “We give you money, what do you mean I am an individual!” The thing I hate the most is not being seen as a human being. My mother says, “I will be so embarrassed, I will be embarrassed by you if you take off your hijab.” My father says, “You depend on me, I say the last word.” When I say, “I will keep my hijab not for Allah but for you, isn’t it shirk in a way?” they say, “Who puts these thoughts in your mind, who are you imitating?” My will, my freedom are disregarded. But I made up my mind. These next 4 months, I will study like crazy and get into a university out of town. I won’t go through the door of that university with hijab, I’m sure of that. Let this university choosing period be over, let it all be certain. If they don’t let me take off my hijab in summer, I will take it off there. Let them beat, swear if they want. I don’t want to match my tunic with my headscarf anymore, I want to put on colorful nail polish and be comfortable. You shouldn’t lose your hope either. Don’t forget that freedom requires effort.

(Image: Keiko Minami)

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