It was staggering to see that a platform like this exists and how many women experienced it. I was touched. I thought we were the minority, if not alone. Let me tell you my story, but it was not a success, and it couldn’t finish.
I’m 18, and I couldn’t wear pants since I was a kid. My father allowed knee-level skirts with socks, but things were different for pants. Sometimes I remember my childhood stories and notice how much they actually hurt me without realizing it.
One day, I was crying and told my uncle, “Dad doesn’t allow me to wear pants.” I was 11 or so when this happened, and my hair was not covered back then. And he said: “What will you do wearing pants anyway? You’ll already need them in university while getting in and out of the bus to be more comfortable.”—such a silly explanation. Once, out of nowhere, my father brought me to the store to buy cargo pants. I was amazed by this, I can’t forget.
Anyway, then I turned 13, and I was going to begin high school. I tried to convince my parents to send me to a regular high school instead of an Imam-Hatip.* One of my teachers told them it was okay for me to go to a regular high school because I was modest (!). We prepared a list, and my parents confirmed it. I added an Imam-Hatip at the end of the list to make them happy as well. Back then, we had to take the list to the school to get it confirmed, and I gave it to my father. I was excited to see the results. Can you guess what happened next? I was placed in an Imam-Hatip that wasn’t even on the list! It turns out my parents had changed the list from top to bottom.
When I told them I wanted to go to a normal high school. They said to me as if it was mandatory, “Everyone there will be uncovered, are you going to be able to cover your hair again after school?”. I had to say yes, of course.
I got used to the fact, eventually. My mother bought me a sapphire blue scarf, I was going to wear that one. One day before I started school, my cousins came over. We went to the park. I was like a lamb waiting to get slaughtered. I remember the dreary smile I had when I was on the see-saw with my hair waving through the air for the last time. I remember the smile on that little girl’s face, and I feel sorry for her. I covered my hair the next day.
When I came back home on the first day of school, can’t emphasize enough how I didn’t want to cover my head. I was trying to hint my mother by saying such things like, “I’ll wear my dress and cover before the shuttle arrives, oh, only the dress.” I resisted a couple of times during childhood and left home without the scarf or with only a hat. Eventually, my mother told my father about this, and he said, “Now that you are a child, your sins are written under my name. Now, cover your head. If you want it, you can stop covering when you grow up.” and that was it.
I am an 18-year-old university student now. I want to stop wearing a headscarf. It was challenging for me to confess this to myself. Very difficult. It’s because every visible strand of hair was seen as equal to adultery. The childish joy that filled my heart when I first saw the commentaries that rejected this verse makes me ask: Why?
I moved to a different city for university, but I still cover my hair. In fact, my parents wanted me to learn Qur’an instead of going to university. Always. My mother was the reason for me going to school, actually. She said, “She should start school and not continue the Qur’an lessons.” My grandmother wanted me to continue, though. That’s why at my slightest mistake, my mom takes on the burden. “We shouldn’t have taken her from the Qur’an course,” they used to say. In 8th grade, I begged them to send me to an after school course, I was crying a lot. My father told me, “Maybe after this, you go and learn Qur’an, wouldn’t that be nice for you?” Even though this was the sentence I was afraid to hear the most, I smiled as if I wanted it. My grandmother came to my rescue this time. She told my grandfather, and they sent me to an after school course.
Everyone has a fault in my story, but everyone has helped me in their own way too. For example, my father is a good person. If you asked him, he would talk about how important it is to question. But why did he make me do it then? I couldn’t wrap my mind about it. If I had stopped covering my hair after starting university, the talks about the Qur’an course would start again. I didn’t do it. I was afraid of hearing it. Whereas I’ve already made my mind long ago. But I couldn’t tell anything to anyone.
With my own decision, I started wearing the Ferace** around 10th grade. I wanted to remove it after graduation. My mother’s reaction was horrible. How would she react my wish to remove my hijab if she responds to abaya this way? I wear the Ferace when I have something a bit tight on me, but they look at me as if I’m uncovered even then.
My mother had started wearing the burqa when she was 12 years old. Could wearing a burqa be a 12-year-old child’s own wish? She is the one who should understand me the most, but she doesn’t.
That is a story for you. I don’t know what would happen next…
*Imam Hatip schools are educational institutes in Turkey where people are trained for religious professions such as imams.
**Long-sleeved, collarless, loose, long black outfit for women to cover all parts of their body.
(Image: Marinka Masséus)