I want to dress like a child because I was always covered from head to toe when I was a child.

Hello, all. My story is a little different from the other stories here, my age being the most distinctive. The women here are mostly in their twenties or thirties. I am, however, only 15 years old. I am about to finish my freshman year of high school. I was in the third grade the first time I was made to wear a headscarf. My teachers were furious with me and my family. And what was I promised as a gift to cover my head? Toys! Then I started wearing a headscarf permanently before I started fifth grade in September 2013. I can still clearly remember how my grandmother wrote her memories on the calendar page of that day to keep it as a souvenir since it was such an important day for her. All I heard were praises, appreciation, and recognition from people around me but I could tell that something was wrong. I was enrolled in a private school—a religion-heavy one at that. I was constantly humiliated and insulted, always considered as someone inferior. It’s now 2019 and my self-confidence is yet to be restored. It’s not a joking matter—I was only ten years old back then. My parents bought expensive headscarves from brands such as Tekbir or Armine, made me pose in front of the camera with a headscarf on my head, and broke the news to all of our relatives while I, still a little girl, didn’t even know how to tie my headscarf. My hands still struggled to reach to the back of my head.

I never got used to the order in our house. My father used to drink on New Year’s or some other days with his colleagues, when he liked, and yelled at my mom when she tried to wake him up for prayer. I think it was because of the facts that he went to a religious high school and grew up with an oppressive father but he himself forced me to do things even he was never made to do. My grandfather had undergone a mental illness and later been hospitalized at Bakırköy Psychiatric Hospital. He had such a twisted vision of religion. Allah commands us to experience this world, too, and not just live for afterlife but my grandfather considers women who don’t wear a headscarf as “whores.” Just yesterday, he clicked his tongue disapprovingly when we went by several girls wearing jeans and kept grumbling all the way back home. After my father suffered from a brain hemorrhage and a stroke, he became a clone of my grandfather. Maybe they don’t even realize it but they are so reckless both with other people and in everything they do. My father drives over double the speed limit to make it to the mosque in time for prayer, yells at us for missing it, calls me a heretic whenever we have different opinions on a subject… There are many other daily examples. My mom, on the other hand, seems as if seeking salvation in religion. She is the only conservative person in her family who also wears a headscarf.

Back when I was in the 7th grade, I used to see my friends wearing short-sleeved clothing. I still didn’t know how to tie my headscarf. They made fun of me a lot—I, however, envied them so much. One day, carried away by peer pressure, I went back home and declared that I didn’t want to wear a headscarf anymore. Both my parents started crying in response. My father didn’t talk to me for some time. All of my relatives made fun of and insulted me with such words which could make me leave home and cry my eyes out on the street. On the second day after I took off my headscarf, I plucked up my courage and dyed my hair blue—just two strands. Maybe it’s because I was going through puberty but I yearned for being different. The only one thing that I was certain of was that I didn’t have the chance to actually experience being a child. I had never worn shorts and I never had any short skirts. With my headscarf on, I always had to wear long dresses and go to Qur’an class. I received a disciplinary action when I stopped wearing a headscarf, just like when I started wearing one, too. I could never conform to a box that the society wanted me to belong. After that, my mom took away and sold my cell phone. She yelled “Are you going to the school to become a tramp? Is that it?” when she came to pick me up from school. It’s been more than two years since then but it still rings in my ears. I am convinced that I wouldn’t be able to forget it even if I ever get Alzheimer’s. It was just too much for a 12-year-old. When we got back home, my father called home and asked, crying, “My girl, did I send you to school for you to become a whore?” They decided to transfer me to another school. When we went to my grandfather’s, everyone there was crying. My grandfather said “I have never, not even once, made my son cry. What did you do to him?” I usually forget things because I have B12 deficiency but I could never forget those words, even for a second.

Even when I stopped wearing a headscarf, I still dressed conservatively. That period only lasted for about half a year, until I started 8th grade, anyway. My parents went to Mecca for Hajj in the summer of 2017 and I stayed with my maternal aunt. I could say that I was psychologically tormented for that one month and it wouldn’t be a lie. I started wearing a headscarf again there. But I still don’t know why I did that, why I tortured myself so. Just after I started 8th grade, one of my teachers asked me if I wore a headscarf of my own free will and I confirmed. Everyone now respected my decision because it was to wear a headscarf. My grandmother was so happy. My mother’s side of the family, however, humiliated me but when you have your family standing behind you, you feel ever so strong to hold on. So, I trusted them when I head my headscarf on and never gave a second thought about those trying to put me down. My grandfather, happy again, kept telling me “Now that you have a headscarf on, your face looks as if been blessed by the heavenly light.”

This is my second year in headscarf. I have been wearing it for four and a half years in total. Tears are streaming down my face as I am recounting my story and I know that I went into too much detail. I just had to mention my relatives who are virtually monsters and who terrifies me the most. My paternal grandmother’s sister, for example, could drive someone to suicide only with her words. I don’t remember how many times she has made me cry. I am afraid of what people would say or think. I am afraid of being called a “whore” again. Nothing can make me want to wear a headscarf again, however. Sometimes I get teary-eyed whenever I go out with my not friends who don’t wear a headscarf. They notice how I feel, too. At school, I have another friend who is also forced to wear a headscarf. We are dying to take our headscarves off.

I hope you understand me. I need support but there is no one around me who can help. Out of my fifty relatives only five of them would stand behind me. I don’t want to worry if people can see my neck, if my headscarf is sliding, or if the wind blows off my skirt anymore. I don’t want anyone to shout at me either. I feel weak and I cannot take it. I can make a crying person smile or cheer up someone in a bad mood and I need someone like that in my life. I am still young and I want to wear short-sleeved or strappy shirts in the summer and not come home sweating because my neck is all covered. I want to wear beautiful hairclips, maybe one with daisies. I want to dress like a child because I was always covered from head to toe when I was a child. I want to feel lively again and I only need support from one person. Can you help me?

(Image: Mark Beck)

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