I was expecting a story of being forced into closure. The first letter is about belittlement, about exclusion. Melike is the daughter of a religious family who has never been forced into closure. He is angry with those who see it appropriate to use the term “White Turks” and belittle his family, as well as his family, who constantly warns him to cover his body, if not his head. The story of the young woman in her early thirties today is noteworthy in two respects: It describes how non-religious people approach religious people and how they make them feel with this approach. It also shows that the fact that a woman is not forced to cover her head is no guarantee that her bodily freedom is not restricted by her family. The word is Melike.
“When I was little, I used to go to them in the summer when my friend in the opposite apartment called. We listened to music, sang, had conversations on the eve of puberty. There was a girl who lived in the same apartment, sometimes she would come too. Her mother was not working, but my friend Sevil was always alone at home since she took her younger brother to the Konken. Whenever I was with them, I used to attribute the questions of his father, who called the house, to this at first.
“What are you doing?”
“What did you do in the morning?”
“Are you alone?”
“Did anyone come home today?”
In time I understood. When I’m sure that Sevil deliberately avoided mentioning my name. He said that the other girl in the same apartment had come.
“Hulya came in the morning, we had breakfast.”
“Hulya will come soon.”
“We will go for a walk with Hülya in the evening.”
One day I said to her: “I’m here too, we’re going to walk around together in the evening, why are you talking about only Hülya?” He didn’t answer. After thinking about it, I connected a lot of things together. When his father saw me on the sidewalk, at the grocery store, at the butcher’s, he bowed his head slightly, even though he was joking with the other children. He was passing by my mom and dad. There was only one difference between me and the other children. Their mothers were on, mine was off. Their fathers were clinking raki glasses on the balcony, mine was going to the mosque. Even as a child, I could tell. Raised by religious parents, she did not want her daughter to be close to her own daughter. There could be no other explanation for this.
I started to go to Sevilla less, to play on the street and to go down when he was not around. When I saw his father, I turned my face or looked at the ground. Since he was treating my mom and dad like they weren’t there, I was ignoring him.
This was my first self-realized exclusion. I’ve had similar experiences many times. It is these exclusions that are why I am still angry today at people who, on the outside, have no difference in our lifestyles. I take a strange pleasure when I see those who get scared that their lifestyles will be interfered with and restricted. I confess that I am glad that the conservatives I have never voted for, and will never vote for, have taken the pain out of my childhood and youth. It touches me too, of course I don’t want to live an imposed life, but I think those who treat religious people like insects should see that their treatment is rewarded. I hope there are more among them than I can think of who understand this.
I have never covered my head. My family has never forced me to do this and other religious obligations. I studied at university. Anyone who looked at me would never have guessed that I was the daughter of a closed mother and religious parents. That’s why they didn’t realize that they were humiliating the family I grew up talking about.
“They’re all covered in summer, don’t they cook between their legs?”
“If you wear a coat in July, you will stink of sweat.”
“Well, there are no closed ones in my family. I’ve never had any closed friends either.”
They didn’t even suspect that I wasn’t laughing with them. But when they came to us to study, they saw my mother. I don’t know what they were talking about. But when I went out with my mother, I remember the faces and voices of those who made fun of them like today.
We got on a ferry once. We were going to Burgazada. My mother wanted to get off at Kınalıada, she was wondering. As we got up, one of the two women sitting across from us said to the other, without even lowering her voice: “They won’t go into the sea, they won’t, what are these squeezing heads doing on the island?” These two women were not non-Muslims. Another time, on the public bus, the sound came from behind. “She is closed, her daughter is open. I don’t understand at all what kind of head this is.”
I was never ashamed of my mother’s headscarf. I’ve always hated those who don’t make him fit on the beach because of the veil on his head, and who can’t make sense of not putting the same veil over my head. Years passed, this hatred did not pass. I don’t want us to live by the rules of the religious, but I enjoy the plight of those who desperately try to escape the rules of the religious. For years, those who did not hesitate to belittle, humiliate, and almost look at closed women in front of their children, “What have we done, what has happened to us?” I want them to think a little bit about the action-reaction law. In fact, they all know such laws because their heads are bare, right? How did they call themselves? White Turks?
I am also angry with my mother and father, of whom I am not ashamed. I wasn’t forced to be religious, but for years I had to wear skirts that ended below the knee. I could wear short sleeves, low sleeves, but sleeveless was not allowed. I could wear tights, but only if I put on something to cover my hips. I could only go into the sea with related girls in the bays where there was no one. I’m tired of hooking up both sides of my V-neck with safety pins, covering my chest with my hands while bending down, unbuttoning my skirt so that it goes below my knees and pulling it down. I have always hated having to cover not my head but my arms and legs.
Today, I really want to live in a place where those who want are covered and those who do not want to be covered. In a place where the unveiled do not humiliate the veiled, and the one who was once humiliated does not cry for revenge. But I can’t help but think that those who insulted my mother because she was wearing a headscarf yesterday look at their fearful state and think they deserve it. Now, if a woman who is not personally humiliated because she is open feels like this, how do those who are humiliated because she wears a headscarf feel like this.”