In the religion-based school, I had to fight over my clothing.

I’m only 16 years old but I wanted to write to you because my story feels similar.

I’ve been forbidden from having any contact with boys since I was 4 or 5. If I were to hold a boy’s hand, I’d be accused of harlotry and beaten – despite being 5 years old. I went to a religious middle school. It was a place where I had to fight over my clothing. I would be dressed in all black and didn’t even dare to talk in our male teachers’ lessons. Near the end of middle school, I started questioning some things. I couldn’t accept a religion that viewed men as horny perverts, counselling women to protect themselves from them. They forced me to go to a religious high school too. I went there for 1 week only and left it after a fight with a teacher who claimed that homosexuality was a disease.

I transferred to a regular high school and now I wanted to take my hijab off. I desired a brand-new life in my new school. I hid away all the knives and sticks in our house and told my dad how I wanted to take my hijab off. He told me he was ashamed; he didn’t even look at my face for the next year. Somehow, word got out in my new school that I was a non-believer. The boys saw an opportunity in how my family didn’t know this and they started to threaten and abuse me. One day I couldn’t bear it, I came home crying my eyes off only to find no support at all from my family. They blamed me for it. My mom had learned I was not a Muslim. In pursuit of a new life I transferred to another school, telling everyone a lie about how I’d come from another city. Nobody in this school knows who I really am. I’ve sought out psychological treatment because of all the violence I lived through as a child and the abuse I suffered in high school. I’m only 16 years old. I’m one of the thousands of young people who are abused and subjected to violence because of their beliefs in this country. I’m proud of my progress so far. And though I’ve thought of giving up thousands of times, I have never regretted my decision to press on.

(Image: Reuters)

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