I want to continue the search for a belief while not representing a religion.

Hello, I am a 17-year-old high school senior.

It all started when I was 11 years old. I had passed the 5th grade and had finished primary school. I had to choose a secondary school. My family did not force me on this. I went to Imam Hatip secondary school (a religion-based school) with my own preference. It was the year to get used to the headscarf that year, sometimes I was wearing the hijab sometimes I wasn’t. When I finished 5th grade, I told my mother that I wanted to take off my hijab. My mom said: ‘’No, is this a child’s play?’’ she got angry with me. However, it was 3 years before I had my period, and I was not even obliged to be religiously responsible.

I know that I was crying a lot that day, then I immediately got used to the situation of being covered. It actually is very difficult for me to accept this situation because I did everything to attract my family’s attention until 1-2 years ago when I realized that they didn’t make me feel loved and I was so wimpy against them because I just wanted to be accepted by my parents.

Still, ‘’She went to Imam Hatip with her own will, and she became a hijabi with her own will’’ they said. With that little of an awareness can an eleven-year-old girl decide to go to Imam Hatip and cover up? How could a child at that age be mature enough to fulfil the obligations of religion?

When 8th grade was over, I had my period. Now I should have been a true Muslim. I was already praying and fasting during Ramadan. I was already used to wearing the headscarf. So, getting my period did not change anything.

Most of my friends continued going to the Imam Hatip, and I preferred to go to a Science High School despite the intense insistence of my environment. I started 9th grade and continued my prayers. Things changed in the 10th grade and my anxiety also started that year.

Grade 10 has been exceedingly difficult for me. I was constantly crying at school and asking for permission to go home. During the second semester I went to the psychologist for a few sessions, but it didn’t change anything because I already knew why I was this way. Everything was just an accumulation of my past experiences and unprocessed feelings.

I have not received any support from my family whatsoever. They thought I was stressed by my lessons and that it was all. Occasionally they would say things like ‘If you read the Qur’an and pray you would feel better’’, but I had already lost my spirituality.

Previously, I was just trying to base Islam on logic. It was the first time in the 11th grade that I started to study religion in a purely in an objective way, far from all spirituality. I read the Bible, researched the theory of evolution, looked at the interpretations of the verses that I could not read and understand in the Turkish translation of the Quran, and tried to examine all aspects of the verses.

I gave my months to this work. While my friends were studying for the university exam, I was dealing with this research and it was only giving me headaches. When I was with my friends yesterday, the subject of evolution and religion was brought up. My friends, who do not have any religious identity visible from the outside, were asking ridiculous questions indicating that they were completely ignorant, and I was so familiar with these questions that I was already tired of those discussions. 

My heart is so broken right now. Because of this religious identity that I have been wearing for years, I have been exposed to absurd attitudes. On the day of the religion exams, my friends who were placed to the same class as me were happy for this reason, they come to me and asked ‘Is this sin?’, the teacher called me ‘’kaaba’. Although my friends have such ignorant perspectives, they are not exposed to such behaviour. I have now become hateful of both my headscarf and my name. My name means believing in God’s existence and monism. I think my family was overly sure that I would believe in God’s existence and monism. I am not what I seem to be, and I cannot look like my true self. I don’t feel religious at all.

I want to continue this path of seeking religion/belief while not representing a religion. I don’t have the courage to take off my hijab right now because I don’t want to be the centre of attention in my environment, but after the university entrance exam, I will talk to my family and take off my hijab. Maybe I will change my name in the future. The day I take off my hijab will be the day I become free. I will write here again. Only 4.5 months are left for the exam.

(Image: Esther Sarto)

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