I ventured into this topic a few months ago here, when I visited my boyfriend’s homeland of Turkey, for 2 months. In that time, my boyfriend became my fiance, hosts became family and, well, the entire trip was pleasantly hijacked.
In the weeks that ensued however, I did manage to do what I set out to do: spend time in Turkey’s capital, drive along the coastal towns, and reaching as far south as the city of Izmir, and ending of my whirlwind tour in Istanbul. What I found pertaining to the hijab was little short of disappointing.
I still haven’t been able to engage with much of the pro-hijab audience, only with my peers who seem adamant that it not only comes from an archaic mindset, but that it is very much anti-Turkish. This harmless piece of cloth seems a strong point of contention not only from a feminist perspective, but from a political one as well. And since being an outsider, I could only go on the sometimes biased opinions of my guides, I had to maintain a polite distance from adopting these beliefs.
However even in my own observations, it was hard to deny that within the intellectual and middle to upper class world, the hijab was truly found few and far between. Through my exploration of the countryside, stopping in villages to get gas, food etc., I did notice that something as seemingly harmless as knee-length shorts and sleeveless tank tops did gather me stares. I am not sure if they were simple suspicion or judgement, but when they came from women covered head to toe in 40 degree celsius weather, I couldn’t help feeling guilty of something.
At one point, visiting the market and bazaars of Izmir, a city strongly loyal to the old rule under Ataturk, there was a strong air of modernism and progression. Muslims were very proud to be Turkish, and were very clear to highlight that the two were not the same.
My personal views on the hijab still have not been swayed, only moreso affirmed, so I am not left with much to say, but I took some photos while I was in the Izmir bazaar. It shows two clothing stores, side by side. One is selling current demure clothing for the muslim woman who chooses to cover herself, and the other sells beautiful and vibrant traditional Turkish dress hailing from yesteryear.
I think they describe the state of flux that the hijab has created in Turkey, far better than I ever could.