On every visit to my relatives, they only ask me, “Are you going to study Theology?”

I am Nazlı. I am 18. My journey of Imam-Hatip, a religious school, started because of my father’s stubbornness and my headscarf journey started with enthusiasm at the age of 11. Already at the age of 5, my math teacher emphasized the necessity of a headscarf for my mother at a parent-teacher meeting. I said “Ok” with some enthusiasm in order not to be on the minority side. Some may know, those kinds of radical choices are only made once. I was little; how would I know it would be like this?  I wish my mother hadn’t let me carry such a heavy burden. Because it wasn’t a hair clip, I couldn’t understand properly. 

Years after years, I’ve made a connection with my headscarf. I liked it, or maybe I just tried to like it. I read books; I filled myself with the love of learning. I wanted to go to Imam-Hatip in high school. I gave up on going to Science high school and continued my way with Imam-Hatip. 

In the 2nd grade of high school, they started a hafiz project in school. We began with the promise that we will study in parallel with our academic success. Apparently, it was bait for students. I was a boarding student for one and a half years. I was stupid. I didn’t realize it. My family was away, the quota of the only other dormitory I could go to was full if I left. I was trapped. My mental state was a mess. At the age of 16, hafizes that are supposed to be conservative kept dealing with students. They did not allow me to go to my family and go out for one month until the last drop. Then time passed, somehow, the quota was there. Then I was 18 years old.

I became old enough to take the university exam. The shawl I wore strangled me over time, imprisoned in a feeling of insecurity. Then, on every visit to my relatives, they only ask me, “Are you going to study Theology?” My mother used to say, “You were such a chirpy child.” Later I understood that together we all made me silent. I’ve never used my headscarf to draw attention. I wasn’t into love. I’ve never loved someone. Criticizing is not my thing, but sometimes when I check on social media, I see such things that I say I don’t want to be a part of. Sometimes I say they are inappropriate. 

I look at my past, and I want to be that chirpy child. I want to go to the sea and wet my hair in the rain. I want to be known not only for the religion I am connected to but also for who I am, even after nine years.

  1.  Imam Hatip schools are educational institutes in Turkey where people are trained for religious professions such as imams. 
  2.  Person that memorize the whole Quran.

Translator: Ö.K.

(Image: Bernard Buffet) 

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