I wanted you to listen to a girl who had fought for her freedom and won instead of fearing oppression this time.
I was a girl who was sent to a religion-based school at 14 without knowing what is happening. Honestly, I didn’t want go there, but I kept my silence and stayed there because I didn’t know what I did not want back then. When the mold they tried to force me into started to become too narrow for me I started going to the school crying. My family didn’t support me because they loved the idea of religion-based schools. I was a completely different person than them, but they tried to make me shame people who shared the same opinions and values as me and wanted me to applause theirs instead. I realized this and I didn’t want to do it. There was already too much pressure on us, it was maximum 1 or 2 girls who had the courage to take their hijab off while going to religion-based schools. The pressure on me was unbearable especially at school. They decided our personalities for us. Anyways, I decided that I wanted to take my hijab off I nmy senior year. I didn’t want to do it anymore; I was secretly envious of the people who let their hair dance with the wind. I would want to grab my hijab and throw it to the ground every time I was in a bus. I was saying “Why am I even doing it anymore?” whilst I did my hijab there was no point for me to wear it anymore. Luckily, high school ended, and college applications started. I was still a hijabi and nobody knew the storms inside me. But fortunately, I wasn’t alone at all; as soon as the school ended the girls who were hijabis for 4 years started to take their hijabs off one by one. That kind of news was heard secretly, then sporadically, and finally everyone was learning; it was engraved in us so deep that what we are doing is shameful…
They made me apply for theology majors. I barely tolerated the religion based high school for 4 years and I was so happy it ended. But I found myself as a theology major because of my schools’ advice, my family and the mind fog I had at the time. But my family knew how much I hated the religion-based school. I started going into lectures thinking maybe the environment would be different, it is college after all but I was disappointed at every lecture I attended. Everything but everything was the same; the same pressure, the same glances, again those who always judge you about your actions or decisions and say that they should not be like this, pressures, directives … I couldn’t breathe, I was fed up. “Fed up” was optimistic for my situation I was calling my mom crying every day. After a while of attending lectures I didn’t continue my education, I couldn’t stand another religion-based school for 5 years even with the pressure to do so. On top of it I didn’t want to stay a hijabi and be around religious people for the rest of my life. Luckily, I saved myself. I came home, my mother could see how fed up I was. I was so sad; I was constantly crying.
When I dropped out of school I started to work, I had my first non-hijabi friends there. Obviously, I was always around religious people before then. Saying hello to a male was like killing someone there, it was extremely shameful and people would look at you with different eyes. Wouldn’t it be funny if my colleagues knew those stupid rules exist in my community? Those examples were only bits of what we have seen and experienced. My colleagues were dressing up, they were taking care of themselves and were happy. I was still a hijabi and I didn’t care what was on me, I was so sad that I couldn’t even stand looking at myself. A wrinkly head scarf and the same bag every day… Can you imagine a woman that can’t stand looking at herself in the mirror because she can’t match who she is with what she looks like? Fortunately, I somehow learned what normal was. Then, the second shock wave came; I said “Wow” to myself what ridiculous things I have experienced! After that, a friend of mine asked why I let myself go that bad. We talked for a while, that day was the turning point for me. The day after I decided to take my hijab off. In that evening I curled my hair, wore my coat and went outside to celebrate my hair reuniting with wind. I walked around the block I am so free…like a bird. As if a huge weight has been lifted of off my shoulders, as if I took off everything from my soul alongside of my hijab. The wind was like a bird, it was caressing my hair, my ears weren’t crushing under the bonnet (the cap women wear under their hijabs) , my hair was dancing; after 5 years I finally felt beautiful again. I found myself, become happy and free. I was glad that I haven’t been a slave to them mentally but when they try to brainwash you for 4 years some things find their way to your subconsciousness even though you are aware of the brainwashing. Because of that I was very shy about going to work without my hijab for the first time. Luckily, all my friends were already aware of my situation; they all congratulated me for my decision. They said “Whichever way makes you happier, that’s better.”
It is the first anniversary of that day now. A lot of the friends that I had in high school took their hijabs off, they are all free and happy now, nobody regrets doing it and they are all busy with leaving the past behind, focusing on the future and enjoying their freedom. Before I took my hijab off last year I was reading your letters. The things I included in mine was the best parts of my story. I had been very oppressed, obstructed and they constantly tried to mold me according to their ideals. I survived awfully hard times. Since I left theology, a foundation dormitory closed its doors to my face, whereas it was a 70% government-sponsored institution. Anyways, I am glad it happened that way. Don’t give up, be the way you are happy, own your decisions and follow them stubbornly. There is happiness in the end.
(Image: Alessandro Gottardo)