I don’t remember at what age it began. Since 4th grade, my father would call me, my big sister, and my small sister by his side, and he would tell us the material and spiritual benefits we would get if we became a hafiz. When I think about it now, I see that it was a brainwashing effort in how he started to do this at a young age.
I started wearing a hijab in 5th grade because I wanted to be like my big sister. Also, many women around me were in the veil. After 5th grade, my father asked me, “Do you want to be a hafiz?”. After two years of sessions of my father calling us and telling us about being a hafiz, I accepted it to make him happy, provided that he would buy me a phone. As I went to a Quran course, I wanted to start wearing a burqa at the age of 12 — already grown up in a religious family. I aspired to be like all the others in a burqa. When my hodja realized that I couldn’t be a hafiz, she called my father. She told my father, “This girl can’t be a hafiz,” then he got angry and disenrolled me from the course.
My father gets very uptight during Ramadan because normally, he’s a smoker. He slapped me that day for not memorizing a page of the Quran. My mother and father had beaten me for misbehaving before. A basket had been crushed on my back; they also broke my glasses while they beat me up. Were they right? I don’t know.
For the next three years, my father tried to make me a hafiz, I wasn’t up for it, but I was also afraid to say, “I won’t.” When I started high school, I told my father, “I don’t want to be a hafiz,” which was something nearly impossible for me and probably my first rebellion against my father. I had almost no friends those three years — I had only two-three friends, and except them, I was excluded from the other students because I was older. I started high school without any friends and with no self-confidence. This brought out some problems with me. I thought it was normal to be afraid of my mother and father before, but now, I find it nonsense. However, I’m still afraid.
I wanted to leave that high school as there was a risk of failing the class, it was a good high school, but I couldn’t make it. Once again, I opposed my father by saying, “I don’t want to study there;” my father, who took the thing about being a hafiz quickly, got angry. In this period, we had a lot of fights, but the thing that hurt my pride the most was when my father told this incident to his friend and called me a “prick” when I was right there. His friend coming up to me when my father was gone and consoling me by saying, “This is just how Muhittin is, don’t mind him.” upset me and hurt my pride even more. When I told my father later about how I was upset about this prick and slap incident, he apologized to me, said he regretted it.
Currently, I study at the same high school again. I got good friends, and I am not excluded even though I am two years older. However, after all of this, I don’t have any courage to be against something. I don’t dare to argue against my hijab.
(Image: Hollis Sigler)