It was weird for many people when a veiled person liked Nazım Hikmet

Hello. I procrastinated writing here for a long time, but I think that my experiences and what I feel about them are sufficiently brewed now and ready to be served. Now, I start telling my story. I got in the hijab at the age of 14. These were on my mind when I decided to veil: I have to veil someday eventually, at least I will have different friends in high school, so I will not be judged… The reactions were not as bad as the ones written here, but I was exposed to many incentives, like being gifted headscarves even when I was not veiled yet and being told “How beautiful you look!” as I got in the hijab.

The years following my veiling were not hard. I accepted the life I was born into. I didn’t think much about what I wanted and thought. I had been raised in an environment that dictated that the things others say are very important. For this reason, I cared a lot about what people said about me. After a while, I started living with an “If I’m veiled, I should act like it.” mentality.

In time, the space I allowed for myself shrunk, and I couldn’t fit in that circle anymore. In a religious, cultural and political sense, my thoughts were very different from a “veiled” person’s thoughts. I felt that I wasn’t being accepted when I expressed myself this way. It was weird for many people when a veiled person liked Nazım Hikmet poems, listened to the works of Fazıl Say[1], or didn’t support an ideology. These affected the shrinking of the circle I was stuck in.

Now that I think about it, one of the breaking points for me was when I had brain surgery at the age of 17. When I didn’t want to wear my hijab in that condition after the surgery (I had a cloth underneath me and I was constantly vomiting), my mother told me, “No, it’s a sin.” This is one of the most painful stories in which I felt veiling was bad. What kind of a sin was that? Why did I have to veil my head when I couldn’t even go to the bathroom?

After I became sure that I wanted to unveil, I didn’t want to talk about it because I was afraid of my friends’ reactions and I was studying for the university exam. The first year I studied for the exam, I didn’t get the points I wanted, and I decided to study another year. This time, I told myself that I would unveil as I started university. After the exam, my parents didn’t want me to choose a university out of town because of economic reasons. But later, I heard them talking among themselves, their real wish was that I was always near them. I started searching for scholarship programs when I heard this. I was accepted to a scholarship program by which I could live without their help in one of the best universities in Turkey. Everything was complete – I was going to study out of town but couldn’t tell them that I wanted to unveil because I was afraid of their reaction.

I started university. The number of veiled people was very little, and I felt weirder and unhappier there. I already felt that I was different from others before, and somehow, I was even more different here. I felt that I was reaching the end of the road, but I still didn’t have enough courage. As the first coronavirus case was reported, I returned to my hometown and went on a few months without telling anyone anything about this. Normally, I wouldn’t talk about things about myself with my mother because she always struggled with her own problems, and it was as if she shut her ears to the rest of the world. After a fight we had, she acted in a way she never did before. Being encouraged by it, I thought that my mother would understand me and I explained the situation to her. She didn’t approve but said, “I always have your back.” When I explained the situation to my father the same day, he said, “That can never happen, forget it. Do whatever you want after you get married.” I was very disappointed after hearing this. To him, I was like property that would be given and taken. He would be freed from all responsibilities when he handed me over to another man. In a talk we had in the following days, he said “Do whatever you want in Istanbul! You will be veiled here.” This way, I understood that the main issue was the famous “others”. Later, I learned that my father said about m, “I will forget about her if needed!”

All these things that I told you hurt me a lot, but now I’m very satisfied with this situation. Of course, this doesn’t mean that I’m happy with the mistakes I’ve made and how I procrastinated. The thing I’m happy with is this: Until these events occurred, I was a person who had no purpose, who didn’t know what she wanted. I didn’t have a clue about which direction I wanted to go in life. These events were a breaking point in my life. Now, I confront everything I procrastinate that will cause me pain, I’m not afraid of thinking about myself, I contemplate what I want. I explore life like a little child, and I’m not avoiding this. Yes, I’m still veiled, but I can’t wait for the day I go back to university. I’m aware of the pain I will suffer when I return to my hometown, but it’s worth it for my choices. I believe everything has a price. I chose to be myself from now on and I will pay the price. I know, the road is hard, but I sincerely believe that the future will be beautiful.

[1] Nazım Hikmet is a Turkish poet who lived in the 20th century. He is known for his leftist ideals. He was arrested for working in a leftist magazine in 1924. He managed to escape to Russia, where he continued to work for the ideals of communism.

[2] Fazıl Say is a contemporary Turkish classical western music pianist and composer.

Translator: Leto

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