When my colleague comes at work wearing a marvelous scarf, I get, as always, her permission to play with it on my head. I have fun like the cats that play with the thread; I can do a lot of stuff with half a meter of cloth. This is a nice feeling, it gives me joy, I see it as a game.
There was a time, though, when I couldn’t see it like that. There was a time when this was an “ought”, an obligation, a necessity- otherwise I couldn’t go out of the house. I used to wear it with anger and tenacity; I tied it in a loose knot so that it could fall with my moves or by the air.
When we had guests- and men among them-, it was something that we absolutely had to wear. It was not pleasurable at all sitting there with a t-shirt two sizes larger, with baggy jeans and a hijab at our head. My hair was bushy and long and I could easily mess around with my mother, who was religious. Half of my hair out of the hijab, half from the frontal side, half from behind. I did not dare to look at my mother; I knew she turned red from her anger and that if I looked at her, she would bite her lip in a specific way, she would shake her head slowly in a way that I only understood and then she would sigh that meant “control yourself! You will see when the guests leave!”
I used to prefer to have a good time with the things I did. I did what I wanted and I did not care about the outcome. I did not care about the slaps, the kicks and the hair-pulling. I was sure that my mother also did not want to wear the hijab, but she was scared. She was scared of the family, of society, of the law, of religion, and this fear was rooted inside her, became a fear of herself. I am sure that she was scared.
We were taught at school that in the “afterlife”, every strand of our hair that was out of the hijab would turn into a snake. Horrifying! I still remember my mother when she dyed her hair, she always left a tuft of her hair out of the hijab- she was ashamed, but she had the need to show her beauty, to feel that she was a woman. I felt sorry for her, but I did not say anything, I did not want to show her that I understood. She was even more beautiful like that, but when she prayed wearing white jadour and hijab, she was also beautiful. We were 9 years old and we were forced to wear hijab and do our prays, because that was, and still that is, the law, the law of Sariat, according to which we are regarded as women at this age. On the one hand we holt our dolls with our little fingers and on the other hand we could have a wedding ring…
We were lucky; we grew up in the city, in a big city. In many small villages, girls got married- or better, were forced to get married- at an early age. In a religious country what religion says and regards right is above everything. I remember it very well, in school we were separated in groups, the one was responsible for the hygiene, for cleaning the doors, the toilets, one for the morning pray and one for the clothing, where we were warned that if our hair was out of the hijab they would write down our names and after many warnings, they would call our parents. If we continued like that, they could expel us from school. This was a good way to learn from the beginning that there will always be someone else that would tell us what to wear and how to wear it, someone else that would take decisions for us. That is how we learned and when we grew up, when the police stopped us at the streets for outfit, we, with clenched teeth, with tears in our eyes, with a heart full of anger, we said we were “sorry”, so that they did not bring us to the police station and call our parents, so that we did not have a record in the police. That was how we learned, but there was a deep trauma left inside us, there was will, there was pain. We always used to say “yes”, “of course”, “you’re right”, and we burned from the inside.
We were cauldrons full of “NOs”, cauldrons full of pain. We reached a point where we did not care anymore about what would happen- not even our parents were in a position to stop us. We started playing with our hijab, we had them and we have them, but now we decide how to wear them. We play with colors. The time when we only wore black during the summer and the winter, have gone away. Now we have colors in our lives, now we brought the colors in our lives, but there are still many “NOTs”.
There was a time in the history of my country, when the hijabs were violently removed from the heads of the women, they wanted us to move on, that was what they said to us, they wanted us to resemble the European women, to look modern. That was the time when education for women became obligatory, when girls could go to university. And many years later, they put again in our heads half meter of black fabric and they imposed the clothing that men decided for us.
They believe that it is our fault that men sin and they try to protect themselves in this way. The problem is not just the hijab here, the problem is that if I, as a woman, am getting diminished and I cannot have rights towards the smallest things, I do not have many things to give to my children, and this is the way in which they can govern for years, or even forever. I was asked to write about the hijab, but I am writing about the stories of my life. I do not know if it’s right or wrong, but I think I can talk about the things I have lived, the things I believe in and the things I feel. Doing research and telling what history has to say is beautiful and interesting, but for me it is far more interesting to express my pain and my experiences, the things I have lived, the things that I couldn’t tell for years!