Hello there. I’ve read almost all of the letters posted on this page and now I regret a little bit for being in a dilemma about whether to write or not. I’m 17 years old now, third year of high school. I’ve been wearing a headscarf since fifth grade, around 10-11 years old. I’m not in an extremely religious family; I was born in an ordinary family that tries to live its religion in a slightly more modern and realistic line, and I live with this type of family. Actually, my father is a man who has nothing to do with religion, but my mother is a relatively more religious Muslim. I think I can describe my father as an “apatheist”. Since my childhood, religious doctrines have been taught to me, as in many families. I can’t judge my family from that point of view, but still I’m sure it made me a bit bigoted.
My mother used to dress me in very modern clothes when I was a kid. She didn’t prevent me from wearing shorts or spaghetti straps. I think I’m lucky in that regard. Everything started that year when middle school started. First, the suggestions came slowly. My mother urged me to study in a religious school; she was telling me that I’m getting older, and that mixed-sex classes would not be suitable for a girl in my age, also, that religious school environment will be more comfortable because all of the students there would be girls. My father never wanted me to go to religious middle school. However, because of the impressions by my mother’s speeches, when my father asked me, “Do you really want to go that school?” I replied doubtlessly, “Yes”. When I started fifth grade, I found the environment odd. The teachers were a group of people so to say “hidebound”. Of course, I can say that more clearly with my current mindset. A friend of mine, who I was sincere with in my class; in the first few months of school, told me that her father said, “Now you are old enough to wear a headscarf, slowly get ready for it so that, you don’t have any difficulties in the future.”
I was too late to say :“I’m only in the fifth grade, what are you talking about?” I liked it in a strange way too. I would later realize that I had made perhaps the biggest mistake of my life. When I got home, I told my mother with embarrassment. She asked, “Do you want it?” I don’t know why but I said “Yes”. The odd thing is my friend who told me to wear a headscarf, took off hers in a month and I felt like I was left alone. That day, we were going out, and it was the first time I went out with a headscarf. The weather was very hot. My shawl and long-sleeved shirt wrapped around my neck and left me in sweat. For a moment, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be okay if I open this for a minute?” However, I remembered the teachings and I gave up thinking about it. Told myself “You have to get used to it.” Almost everyone was delighted to hear that I wear a headscarf. People around me said, “Wow, she can perform such a permanence at this age,” and they were happy. I didn’t even know the real purpose of wearing a headscarf. It was a way for me to be appreciated by my mother and other people. My aunt was constantly trying to dissuade me, but I was telling myself, “You have entered this road once, there will be no return.” My aunt never consented to my headscarf, as she was a person who wears a headscarf because of family pressure.
My mother bought beautiful shawls and beautiful clothes for me. I didn’t know what kind of burden I shouldered with my tiny height, and I was happy. Later on, because of the individuals at my school and home, I became a person who was afraid of men and started to see them as creatures that should be avoided. In a silly way, I had coded in my brain that the only reason they had a conversation with me is their love interest. However, now I have brothers and boyfriends that I’m very sincere with. I’m proud of myself for breaking this shell.
Almost all of my summer vacations were without a headscarf. I was either making compromises or didn’t care about people at the places I went, and I was not wearing my headscarf because the people around me said, “You’re more beautiful when you don’t wear your headscarf.” Back then, my hair was very long, down to my waist. People said that my hair should feel the salt and the breeze of the sea. My hair, which I carefully combed, is now shoulder-length and I cut them myself. Because unfortunately I’m sure that nobody will be able to see my hair for a while. My mother was not very involved in the clothing style I would wear in the sea. Anyway, my conscience wouldn’t allow anything extreme. I was only able to swim in the sea with knee length shorts and a sports bra. My mother was looking at me from afar as this happened. She didn’t speak much, but when I sometimes insisted on my clothes, she was making implications about my clothes in the summer vacations. This continued until high school. Because of the uncertainty of the school that I wanted to go; I chose religious high school with the pressure of my teachers during the application period. I was researching the school; everybody was saying good things about it, and I was happy. In fact, I was extremely happy about the result of my preferences. When I started to high school, I got into a depressed mood with the effect of adolescence, and I did things that went as far as harming myself. In the social media I started to be friends with girls at my age and find them more sincere instead of the outside world. However, this caused my mother’s trust for me to erode, along with a big fight that I couldn’t elaborate on. Two of the reasons for her mistrust were that I got distant with religion back then and my desire to take off my headscarf had found out by my mother.
I wasn’t telling anyone who I met that I was wearing a headscarf. The headscarf was like a corpse for me to hide. I got into a very turbulent religious life in high school. There were all kinds of people at school, from the conservative to the most radical. Although they were usually the sheep of the same shepherd, I was always the one who stumbled and resisted some things. One of the misinformation I was taught from a young age was that the founder of our country, Veteran Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was not a good person. I was being agitated with the religious reforms he constantly carried out and his personal life. It’s difficult to write this now, but I was very hostile to him. However, if he was alive now, I cannot look at his face. I understood him and loved him so much that I get goosebumps when his name is mentioned. Most of the people at my school also didn’t like Atatürk and kept bragging about him. On the way of me looking for truth and reality, my headscarf was swinging from one side to the other. Sometimes it was tied around my neck, sometimes it was pinned to my shoulder, and sometimes it is in a way to cover my chin.
I couldn’t stay steady somewhere. I even wanted to wear a ferace (a long black coat for women to cover all parts of their body) because of the people whose dressings and morals I was impressed with. I even quarreled with my mother for this. My mother didn’t want me to wear a ferace and absolutely refused. Then it passed, like my other whims. Gradually, my inquiries began to deepen and gain meaning. Why would the creator want me to be unhappy? Did he love us? God wanting me to burn for a hair strand started to be too much for me to overcome. At the beginning of this year I was able to make my decision clearly. I fought with myself a lot. Whenever I wanted to show my hair, even a little, to be able to dress comfortably, I stopped myself by saying “The devil is making me to do this.” It was not for me to feel like a wild animal trapped in a cage. There were things I wanted to taste, moments I wanted to live in the world. I realized that a religious life wasn’t for me.
I’m still behind this decision. I know that even one of my relatives, except my mother, will support my decision. My mother understood my idea a little and said, “I don’t think so,” and build the first barrier. However, I won’t stop. This life is mine, this decision is mine. Either I’ll live this life or me! Not someone else, I! In my last breath before I die, I don’t want something to come my mind. I don’t want to regret because this life has no repetition. There is no more of me either. I don’t know how and in what way I can explain this to my mother. What I read here has helped me a lot, thank you everyone; it really helped me. Thank you for reading.
(Image: Tom Hammick)