I find a job and start earning money, and that day will be the happiest day of mine.

I did not read most of the letters on your website, I know you from the articles of Büşra Cebeci. I did not read the articles because they push me to despair. Other women have faced such difficult situations. Some got what they wanted, but I can not, and I am sure I cannot.

I am a 20-year-old secular woman who has left her family for two years. My family is a conservative Turkish family. My mother is much more open-minded and understanding than my family. To this date, I have achieved everything I had accomplished by struggling against my father and relatives with my mother. When I was in middle school, we started to go to the Naqshbandi1 community’s conversations with my mother. I was 14 years old, I wasn’t wearing a headscarf, but when I got there, I was wearing due to “respect.” I loved those conversations because the woman who spoke to us was very kind. No one was calling me a trap, but my cousin wasn’t wearing a headscarf, she was at the university, and she had a little rounder life. The whole family saw her as dishonorable; She was my uncle’s daughter, and my grandparents didn’t even want my cousin’s name to be mentioned. They also did not welcome her to come to us. Anyway, when I was going to the classroom that day, I wore the headscarf and went like that. I was in an after school course given by ADG2. One of our teachers congratulated me, “My dear daughter, you are even more beautiful today” and announced my headscarf to the whole class. Actually, I knew I didn’t want to be that person, but it was a strange feeling to be announced to everyone there.

One day, a woman speaking to us in conversations called me somewhere after the classroom. Until now, she had always seen me veiled, and I was embarrassed to appear without a headscarf. I met her that day, then returned home. Nobody knew that I was veiled, no one would understand anything if I continued without a headscarf, but I was continually being sent to the Qur’an course since I was a child, and I believed it was imperative. I did not take off the headscarf, I continued, and I did not receive any reaction from my family, even in the form of congratulations. 

This made me think it was a very natural process.

The headscarf stuck to me at once.

The following year I entered one of Turkey’s best high schools. Although it was in Konya, it had a very modern environment. As we were entering school, we were taking off the headscarf. I was going to the school earlier than I should because I was tied my hair because of the veil, combed and straightened my hair in the sink; I made a lot of effort so that there were no buckles. 

After taking off the headscarf, I became a confident, active person, talking to everyone. Some of my conservative habits have changed in my high school environment. For example, when I was a kid, I was taught that Atatürk3 was terrible. I loved Atatürk in high school; I saw that it was okay to admire irreligious people. I started to watch foreign tv-series and listen to foreign music. Those in the class were multicultural for me; maybe I tried to catch up with them. Actually, I was fish out of the water, and this process was incredibly worn out, I could not adapt. Even when I got 85 points from an exam, they could easily guess that I had a problem because my grades were always high. I was already on a scholarship. There were no other scholarships in our social circle other than me, they were very used to my academic success. 

While I was experiencing these compliance problems, I was continually getting grades of 20, 40, 50 in high school’s first exams, and I couldn’t tell my family because I was embarrassed. They wouldn’t ask the results of any exams because they were sure of me. A mid-scorecard meeting was held, and my father took my report card. My brother and other brother were very unsuccessful at school. Still, they never faced such a harsh attitude as I did at that time. He shouted and said, “What are these grades!” Things were not going well at school anyway. The girl with whom I became a friend in class became friends with the most popular girl, and no longer cared about me. Since my family was poor, I couldn’t go to dinner with them, I couldn’t dress like them, and I didn’t know what they knew. I had never eaten outside until that age, but they knew all the cafes, I had never worn brands, they were wearing things that were too expensive for me to imagine. I was excluded like this. I remained without friends. I was not able to survive the crises I had already entered. The headscarf period started in schools, and that popular girl asked me, “Why are you still taking off your headscarf or your family is pushing you?” I couldn’t stand that my suffering was visible from the outside, so that I began to wear the headscarf in school too; my eyes broke, I wore glasses. I was already excluded, and I was feeling ugly with a headscarf. This deepened the crisis even more.

I tried to make friends, but I was always humiliated. I couldn’t react to people who humiliated me, and I could not getaway. My loser stance in front of my family has spread all my life. When I was a child, I was always an outstanding person among my friends, but I was a loser, ugly, stupid, and uncultured in high school. Then a new student came to the class, who was also veiled and very kind. We became very close friends, and I thought my problems were solved with the headscarf because that girl made me feel excellent. Unfortunately, high school didn’t last forever.

I graduated and enrolled in a university on a shoreline, despite all the opposition from my father and brother. My father did not let me go to the dormitory, he found a congregation, and I still stay at the congregation’s house. I live by entering into obligatory weekly conversations with eight girls and checking my check-in and check-out times. I have a very nice circle at the university, all modern and very knowledgeable people; Actually, I think I’m like them now, with one difference: the headscarf.

I want to take it off now, but I can’t. If I take my headscarf off in this community house where I stay, they will kick me out, and I have no other place to stay, I don’t have enough money to cover the rent. I want to take it off since I started college, but I couldn’t tell anyone, I just told a friend online. Time has passed, and my boyfriend noticed, asked, I did not lie, I said: “I do not want to wear it.” Finally, we talked to my mom in the past few days. She did not react negatively, and said, “But please wait.” My 12-year-old sister was veiled this year because her breasts started to come out. Even my sister’s chance of studying might be burned away due to my slightest move. We are always in a fight with my father and brother. Probably they are aware that I do not want to be veiled too because when my uncles arrive at home, I do not veil, and I am always warned, “Wear the headscarf and be good!” Now I am waiting to find a job. I will take off my headscarf the day I find a job and start earning money, and that day will be the happiest day of mine. I hope I don’t die without living that day.

  1. A kind of religious order in Islam. 
  2. A religious NGO. 
  3. Founding father of the Republic of Turkey. Initiated a coercive program of political, economic, and cultural reforms to build a modern, progressive and secular nation-state.

(Image: Darko Topalski)

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