They used to beat my older sister to force her to veil.

Hi there, there is no way out in my story. I shouldn’t be pessimistic about my situation, but I don’t know what to do either.

When I was only 4 years old my parents sent me to special daycares where they would teach religious doctrines. I learned reading in Arabic even before learning the Latin alphabet. I was pressured to do daily prayers at that age. My mom wears the niqab and she is obsessive about dressing modest. They used to beat my older sister to force her veil and, in order to avoid same treatment, I covered my hair when I was in 6th grade even before having my first period. My parents preferred to send me to an Imam Hatip high school (religion-based high school) which was the school of choice of my cousin. Obviously, I did not have a say in this. I went to a different city for my education and stayed in a dorm where I discovered that this is actually not the way I want to live my life and that I need to find “real me”.

In the school everybody was somewhat like me but when I go outside of that circle I would come across with different people. I wanted to meet with different people and explore life. All I wanted was to get away from that comfort zone. I did many things in this process. I slept in the airport to observe people there. I walked on the Istiklal Street (a busy touristic street in İstanbul) early in the morning and watch drunk and homeless people. I did such things that put my life at risk. This is how I spent my high school years; by observing other people and other social environments aiming to find myself in this exploration.

Like I said in the beginning my mom has OCD so does my dad. I was going to take the national university entrance exam while I was staying with my parents. Just before the exam my dad shouted at me and made me cry because the shirt I was wearing was not long enough. This incident would occur daily in my life but acting in the same way just before such an important exam hurt more. Despite going to the exam while crying I got placed to a really good university.

During this process I realized that covering my hair makes me unhappy and I don’t want to do it. After thinking it thoroughly I talked to my mom which drove her crazy and she immediately called my dad and told him to come home. My dad threatened me with not letting me go to the university I was placed to. He said after everything he has done for me; he doesn’t understand how I can be such an infidel person. He made me say the Islamic confession of faith. He said if I took my veil off, he is going to shun me from the family. I wasn’t able to find the courage to defend myself against them. They made me promise that I was not going to uncover my hair. I was going to go nuts because I never had a choice in my life since my childhood; I did not even know what kind of person would be had I given the chance of making my own decisions. I have always been oppressed. I was crying my eyes out and felt like I was caught in a trap. There was only one way; I was going to uncover my hair while I was away from home and put it back when I come home.

In the beginning of my university years I felt a great amount of remorse; both for lying my parents as well as not covering my hair as a Muslim woman. Thanks to a friend I meet in college I was able to overcome this overwhelming mentality before I completely lose it or harm myself. Sometimes I would verbalize that I want to kill myself.

While I was trying to hide my situation my cousin who found about that I was not covering my hair tattled me to his/her father who went and told my father. They ordered me to cover my hair and come back home immediately. This happened two days ago. When I arrived home, my dad said “If you don’t cover your hair, we will not send you back to university, we will shun you from the family and you will be on your own. Do you want to bring shame on to our family? I am asking you one last time; are you going to cover your hair?”. I had thought everything prior to this conversation, and I was going to be certain about my decision. Just I was about to say, “This is who I am.” before I finish my word, he attacked me and began crying and shouting at me. I ran but he chased me and said “Are you going to make me a murderer? You would go to hell and I would go to jail”. My sister calmed down everybody. I was ready to take any risk even being kicked out of the family. But they would neither shun me nor accept me the way I am. They threaten to kill me because unveiling was a worse sin than killing someone so to say. After cooling down my dad called me and forced me to swear by the book that I was not going to show my hair. But the thing they did not know that I had stopped believing in the book long time ago.

I cannot find a solution to the harassment and psychological abuse. I had thought that no one can oppress a strong woman, but they oppressed me more after seeing how strong I am. I’ve never ever wanted to be a veiled woman. There is much to tell, but this has already gotten so long. This story is only a fraction of the psychological abuse I have faced. I wish one day everybody will be free and live as they desire.

(Image: Betty Acquah)

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