When I Walked Through Beirut Without My Hijab..

Noor Hassan
July 17, 2020
By the end of my date with my boyfriend, I was starting to think about where I could change my clothes and put on my veil, and about the safest route to get to my town wearing my “proud hijabi girl” face and hug my mom and end this beautiful day with nothing but a memory.

An hour before my date, fear and anxiety started to get their hold on me. I didn’t know whether my boyfriend would recognize me when I arrive or how I would introduce myself to him, “Yes, it’s me and that’s my hair, I forgot my hijab in the car but my face is the same as in the photo.” Maybe he will laugh, maybe he would hug me. I kept thinking about his reaction. The moment I made it there, he saw me and smiled at me, and the ice was broken. We went to a café nearby, kept talking and I started to tell him about the two lives I am torn between.

I told him how distressed I was because of the veil that was forced on me, or the one I chose to put on when I was nine. I can’t stand it; it was literally choking my every breath. Because I was born into a really religious family, I knew I would never be able to take it off, or even bring up the subject in front of the people closest to me. I realized I had to live with this situation for a long time. Due to social and religious backgrounds, I was struggling with myself to the point that I had developed two internal personalities, one telling me to stay where I am, and the other pictures a whole lot of the things I would open my eyes to if I set myself free.

I remember walking through the streets of Beirut without my hijab for the first time. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong, but I was afraid that someone would see me. I started to imagine that someone was watching me, another was taking photos of me. I was with two of my friends who kept making fun of my irrational fear. Yes, I was terrified, but I have found myself for the first time after losing myself a long time ago. I wished I could stay like this forever, but loving your family can sometimes turn into a curse.

It’s a game to which they hold on to really hard, we need to feel the love of our families, especially our mothers, but now this love comes with a price. Family love is conditional and they strike our most sensitive spots. Life would be much easier if it were not for that, we could have been able to be honest with them, and they could have accepted our simple ideas and desires. This curse had forced me to face a lot of contradictions and difficulties.

For example, I cannot write in my own diary nor jot my ideas down freely. Even my “like” button on social media is governed by religious principles and social environment. I had to remove some of my family members from my friends list over time, just to have room to breathe and express myself a little.

I don’t know, maybe I got used to keeping my words to myself, because I was never able to say them whenever I wanted. I lost my ability to express, even the positive feelings, and that’s why I am not so good at building relationships. I have few friends, and I am so scared that I would lose any of them.

Besides the difficulties I faced, there were some funny, maybe dumb, situations, I can’t find the right word… One time, I was in one of Beirut’s cafes with two of my friends and we wanted to have a beer. We told the waiter that we wanted three beers with my veil on. He came, after a while, holding only two beers and placed them in front of my friends. It was embarrassing, I didn’t know why he didn’t bring mine. I was frustrated so I reminded him that I ordered one too, so he apologized and got me my beer.

It was hard that every time I wanted to have a beer, I had to change my outfit in the backseat of the car, if the time and place were generous enough to give me that opportunity. I no longer have a beer unless I show my license beforehand, i.e. flaunting my hair.

I remember walking through the streets of Beirut without my veil for the first time. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong, but I was afraid someone would see me.

Situations that hurt me are frequent. There is that public place where I always hang out with my friends. I think of the people who work at that place, sometimes I show up with my hijab, and sometimes without it, based on the circumstances and the people who are there. Do they know me? Do they know my secret? Did they notice that I can’t determine my beliefs? Or do they understand me and see many other girls who are suffering from the same struggle? How I wish the answer is the second possibility.

These weird and funny situations and my supportive friends are my only ray of hope to survive and overcome this horrible phase, and the duplicity forced on me.

By the end of my date with my boyfriend, I was starting to think about where I could change my clothes and put on my veil, and about the safest route to get to my town wearing my “proud hijabi girl” face and hug my mom and end this beautiful day with nothing but a memory.

In the perfect world I dream of, love knows no boundaries and requires no efforts to survive. There, I see my true self, my family feels happy whenever they see me with or without my hijab. But if that perfect world would really exist, would I be the same as now? Or has this suffering played an essential part in shaping the person I am today and enabled me to see things more clearly?

Although I can’t reveal my identity, I still can’t share this article on my personal page, where I shouldn’t adopt or promote such ideas. However, I tell myself it’s fine .. maybe one day it will all change.

Who would embrace me when I do not know where I belong? I’m a stranger in my home, I am the extraneous. If I searched for a refuge, somewhere I can belong, I would still find myself a stranger. They look at my clothes, and make them the center of their discussions, as if I betrayed someone or an entire society …

I am tired of searching for that place where I can be comfortable and live without fear or denial. I am afraid of my body, my home, and everything else!

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