Hello, I accidentally discovered your website today, and as I read what people who are so much like me went through, I spent the whole day reading your website. I’ve been reading since yesterday. I’m really glad that you are so supportive of each other. When people see that there are people like them, they get rid of this feeling of loneliness even just for a little bit. I went through similar things, and now I want to share them with you young people who share the same fate as me.
My life began far away. I’m the first child of an Anatolian family who had immigrated to Germany. Also, I was exposed to all kinds of double standards since I was little, as I was the only girl in the family.
My father was an illiterate, conservative village kid. He tried to raise me with the religious knowledge he had. I learned to read the Quran before I learned to how read and write in Turkish. I knew how to read the Quran at the age of 5, at the age of 8-9 I memorized the Yasin . My mother wasn’t falling behind my father. When she saw a mistake we had made, she wouldn’t forgive us, she would get revenge in the harshest form possible . My mother is very worried about what others will say; I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said this fear was bigger than her fear of Allah.
I was put in the hijab at the age of 10. Even though I was very ashamed and didn’t want it, I had to wear it. I was feeling very ashamed while my mother and father were bragging about me within their circle. Even though I was 10, I knew that I didn’t have the luxury to cry and oppose because the response to this would be a heavy beating. Now, they had confined my freedom. They had “grounded” me so that men wouldn’t get electricity from me.
As I was becoming a young girl, I felt like all my beauty was being shadowed. Wearing my hair in a bun, wearing make-up, wearing tight and colorful clothing were banned even before this. We would always go shopping for clothes as a family. My father would check so that what I bought wasn’t tight-fitting. If I wanted something that was slightly tight, he would say, “No, do you want to give men the message to look at that part of your body?” I wasn’t able to understand this at that age. Also, going out and hanging out, playing with my female friends were banned. I would always wish that I had a sister so that I could pour my heart out to her.
I didn’t have a hobby and I couldn’t have one, they didn’t even let me join the swimming and physical education lessons at school. When my classmates were swimming and having fun, I would simply watch them from outside. Even though I wanted it, I would restrain myself because I was told that these were sins. When I think now, I see that they made me grow up in isolation by limiting my access to every kind of information, while we were right in the core of civilization. They tried very hard so that I would never wake up and see the truth.
Also, I was learning through experience what a piece of cloth could change at that age, what it was capable of. For some, I was a religious bigot; for some, a good and virtuous girl; and for some, a “woman.” People were looking at me weird, they treated me like I was an old woman. As a child, I faced many prejudices.
While I was a restless child on the inside, the outside of me was like an old lady. It wasn’t appropriate for me to play a game, I didn’t want to participate in class activities, because I knew that it looked unnatural; I looked unnatural. On the one side, there was me, who was watching her youth going down the drain before her eyes, on the other side, there was the German youth who would fully enjoy their youth. It’s not like in Turkey. The gap between us was too much. Let alone going to places like discos/cafes, they would kiss in front of me and talk about sexuality. Let alone these, it was enough for me if wind could caress my hair. Of course, this situation created a collapse in my mental health; depression. I, a person who loved school very much, couldn’t study because of problems like these. My grades went down. There was a father who would say to me, “Don’t tire yourself, I won’t send you to college.” when I did homework and a mother who would say to me, “You don’t knit laces, instead you read books in vain.” when I read books. I came to dislike school this way, even though I used to love it.
As if these weren’t enough, I would be beaten for insignificant reasons. One day, as I was braiding my hair in front of the mirror in the bathroom, my father came in all of a sudden, dragged me by my hair, and gave me a “public beating” of some sort. My mother didn’t intervene. What had I done? I was just braiding my hair inside the house, inside the bathroom. They asked me what kind of thoughts I had in my head, did I have someone in my mind, and was he the reason I cared for my hair! Even though I was innocent, I was beaten because of their paranoia. After this, I would be the one who would feel regret. I would blame myself, wondering if I had made a mistake, if I had done something to upset them. The cause of all this cruelty was religion; I had a father who ruined his daughter’s life to have sexual intercourse with houris( women promised to men in heaven) and drink wine in Jannah. I was still a believer, but I secretly hated this religion. I was repressing this hate because it was a sin and I would burn. This continued until I was 18.
The year is 2006. When I was 18, we permanently returned to Turkey. I was forced into marriage 1 year later. I was forced into something once again, but this was worse than those things. Until then, I didn’t pray for money or fame in my prayers, all I wanted was a loving partner. Apparently love, the thing I begged the most for from Allah, wasn’t destined for me. I would wonder why Allah thought that this one wish was too much for me.
Luckily, my husband was a good person, but I didn’t love him. I still don’t. Right after the marriage, around 1 year later, I had a son. In the meantime, we had ınternet service connected to our house. I was researching about the verses about hijab because this way I would prove that headscarves weren’t a part of Islam and find a way to get rid of it. As I researched, I came across some atheist forums; there weren’t social media back then, there were forums. I was prejudicial against them at first, but as I continued to read them, I began to doubt my religion. I was surprised to see that these people were nonbelievers even though they were Turkish. Maybe Germans weren’t believers because they didn’t know about Islam, but how could these people not believe even though they were Turkish? As I read, my doubts deepened. I felt that my belief was like glass, it “shattered” immediately. Because my belief wasn’t a conscious belief; my father hadn’t told us many things so that we wouldn’t be “puzzled.” He admitted to this later. Some things that I heard the first time shocked me. I was learning my religion from “infidels.”
I didn’t have my old faith or belief anymore as I was 23. I slowly tried to tell my family about this but I backed off every time as I got a bad reaction. When I realized that I couldn’t change them, I decided to change my circle and myself. For this, I would need to get my economic independence first. I had to get a good job because I had a son. If I didn’t have a child, I would divorce immediately and work in any job, but it’s not so easy when you have a child. I went to high school; I had to go to high school again as there was a problem with the accreditation of my high school. Then I took the college exams and got into a 5-year-department. Everyone was younger than me in class, some people mocked me for this. Some people said, “What’s the need for studying after this age, relax,” but I never gave up. I graduated the July of 2019 and now I’m studying for the KPSS(the exam public officials should pass to work) at the age of 32. I hope that I will be appointed and file a divorce so that I can get rid of my husband, whom I didn’t choose and don’t love, my life which I didn’t choose, and this piece of cloth which has stolen my childhood and youth. As I said, I would have divorced sooner if I didn’t have a child, but I’ve been having doubts because of my son. When a person has a child, they have to think not once but a thousand times before they do anything. I thought, “What good my freedom will do if my son is unhappy,” but I feel drained this way. It’s an indescribable exhaustion; you’re neither alive nor dead.
Sometimes I get the feeling that I’m late for life and a feeling of sadness emerges after this. It’s as if too early to die but too late to live. But then I think that it’s better to regret what I have done than what I haven’t. My head is puzzled, I’m in a limbo. But whatever happens, I want to write my own story from now on. I want to create a new life for my son and myself. I want to have a life far away from bigots and my bigoted family. I want to live like a human being, be myself, and make my own choices from now on. Will I succeed? Believe me, I don’t know, but I want to try. Why should I continue their choices for the rest of my life? In the end, it’s never too late to mend, right?
P.S.: By the way, you should know that you are very lucky because you are both single and have these opportunities at this young age. Don’t be sad because your youth is gone. You are at the beginning of your life. You can support each other and share opinions thanks to technology and platforms like these. I’m really upset as a person who didn’t have these opportunities and wasted all these years. Sometimes this feeling of being late tells me to give up, but I hope that I can be appointed and live the way I want, at least for the rest of my late life.
(Image: Paula Rego)