When I’m in my hometown, I walk in the streets as if I’m a criminal because I’m afraid that a friend from college will see me.

Hello. As it was the case for most of you, “family” used to mean to me people whose every opinion I had to accept and who I was sure were right. I was 13 when I got in the hijab. Then, I was going to a complementary private teaching institution, and my father would repeatedly say that if I didn’t somehow veil, I wouldn’t go there anymore. He used to say things like “Only if you veil.” when I wanted to go outside. I loved him very much, I still do, but I couldn’t understand why he insisted so much. My mother had the same opinions as my father. People in the neighborhood I live in see themselves as having the right to condemn girls who don’t veil. My adventure started like this.

There was one veiled person other than me in high school, but I didn’t make this an issue. I never thought, “Everyone is unveiled; why am I like this?” There were all kinds of people in my class. I felt that I was being looked down on because I was in the hijab, but I didn’t care. As time passed, I got to know myself as I started to come out of puberty; I realized that I was actually suppressing many emotions inside me. I always thought that the person I wanted to be and the person I was were incompatible. I would look in the mirror every day after coming home as my classes ended and wish that I could go to school as I wanted. I graduated from high school.

I got into university. In my first year at university, I realized entirely that I had always concerned myself with “What will others say?” and acted under it. Because of what I had lived through and the environment my family raised me in, I had become so introverted that I felt like I would be condemned every second. Whatever I did, it was as if I was making a religious mistake. My family would be angry if they heard it… But the only thing I did was wearing a hood as I took out the trash or wearing a hat as I went to the market. I was very tired of myself and the thoughts rambling inside my head. My search for identity wasn’t coming to an end. The reactions I got from my mother and father after I told them about these was upsetting. I couldn’t make them understand that I never intended to disturb them, and my personality had not changed.

I unveiled as I started my second year, and I called and told my mother. I cried until morning, and I had to smile the next day so that people wouldn’t notice. I was devastated as my father called me on my birthday and told me, “Don’t come here anymore if you’re going to be like that.” I had to wipe my tears and go back to my birthday celebration. My mother told me, “Don’t study, drop out and come back.” but I was very enthusiastic about studying. No one except my friends was by my side, and eventually, I hit rock bottom. Finally, my family called me back, but only if I went veiled. I did, and they told me they would never accept this situation. Still, my father was such a good person that he really wanted me to be happy, but actually, his only fear was the evil relatives whom he didn’t like. I’m sure that most of your families object to you so that you won’t be upset by the reactions you might get. My aunt came when I was at home, and I was once again crying like crazy. My aunt is as conservative as my family, but when she saw me crying, she said, “Is that it? I’m by your side, and everyone knows that you got in the hijab because of your family’s pressure.” She spoke to my family so that they wouldn’t upset me. I learned at that moment how one single person can give back the strength you have lost. I returned to university with my head unveiled. My family got used to this situation, but I still don’t send them a revealed photo of myself so that they won’t get upset.

Unfortunately, my story couldn’t reach a happy ending. When it was holiday time, and I was back home, I couldn’t go out unveiled, this ruined me. Think that you have two identities, and you hate yourself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t succeed; I fear my relatives. It’s actually not them I’m afraid of. I’m afraid that they will upset my mother and father. When I’m in my hometown, I walk in the streets as if I’m a criminal because I’m afraid that a college friend will see me and think that I’m a hypocrite. My psychology is a mess, and I smile so that people won’t be upset because of me, even though I hit rock bottom.

I know that this is a trauma for you; you’re afraid, you spend most nights crying. In our youth, we have a heavy burden on our shoulders that many of our peers don’t know, and we are limping as we try to carry it. But no one steals our dreams; if you can dream that your hair is being blown by the wind in the sunset near a seashore, it’s not late for anything… As to me, I will succeed, as many of our friends who have succeeded.

Translator: Leto

(Image: Francis Gruber)

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