Monday, August 01, 2005


"T, you will never guess what we saw when we visited my cousin," An observant friend told me. "A girl, my daughter's size, clearly a teenager at the very least, who went out into the streets of Ahwaz in a tank top and jeans. No scarf. No manteau."

"No scarf even?"


"Ahmadinejad," her daughter laughed.

"Maybe she was only 9," I commented.

"She'd have to be even younger," the daughter said.
Among the Tehranis and Ahwazis in K's family, the girls wear as little of the hijab as they can until they are given a warning or picked up by the police. The girls in his family have a fortunate girlish look that belies their years. This is totally unlike the unfortunate daughter of a friend who is extraordinarily tall for her age, and, as if that were not enough, has entered puberty early. "She absolutely refuses to wear a scarf," my friend told me. "I had to send her to a boarding school in England. I could not keep her here."

Recently, a man I met told me how heartbroken he was about Iran. "I am a nationalist. I am Islamic. My wife and I both pray 5 times a day. The other day my nine-year old daughter asked me if she could go live with her uncle in England. I asked her why, and she told me that she does not want to wear the hijab. I told my uncles who are clerics. 'How could you do this to my country?' I asked them. 'How could you do this to the religion I love? How could your rules push my daughter away from me?'"

Fashion in Tehran: Giant scarves and tiny manteaus. Hemlines are just below the ass. The scarves are huge, flowered, and fringed, and look like your grandmother's tablecloths.

That's what I really wanted to write about. It's never that easy is it…? Over and over again I have tried not to make hijab an issue, but it is. It was over 110 degrees here for 3 weeks! In a headscarf. And a manteau. It's hot in that frigging outfit.


James Governor said...

this is very interesting in the context that in Europe more and more girls/women are choosing to take up the hijab.

this has caused consternation amongst some commentators and a couple of recent court cases in France and teh UK. the UK case is interesting because, as i understand it, the girl in question was already allowed to wear a "school uniform hijab", agreed with local muslims, but then she went further, against the wishes of her school, triggering a human rights case against them.,,2-1713854,00.html

ET said...

There are, of course, women who choose to wear the hijab. Just as there are orthodox Jewish women who choose to wear wigs or headscarves.

In fact, most Iranian women dress conservatively.

From what I can tell, many women (even those who would choose the hijab for themselves) feel pressure from male relatives to wear hijab. This is true in the poorer areas of Tehran and in smaller cities and, from what I read, in most of Europe.

rebil said...

My wife and I were commenting on the emergence of so many women wearing the hijab in our community. This is new and we were speculating as to why. Pressure or protest or believe?

ET said...

When I go to America, I am amazed by the peacock-like display of religious gear by many religions. It seems to me that more Jewish men are wearing yarmulkes. More Christians are wearing crosses. More Islamic women are wearing hijab.

I guess that's just 3 religions, isn't it? It feels like a matter of choice in America. For instance, I have yet to hear of an Islamic woman in America being killed by a zealous male relative. This is happening throughout Europe, particularly in Germany.

Does it happen in America?

AJ said...

Anything can happen in America and has happened. I live in a town that has a large and growing Muslim population, where women wearing hijab is very common place. I do not know how these women feel about wearing hijab, whether it is by pressure from relatives or is a true symbol of religious belief or a statement of modesty. I did read an article written recently where a girl on a school trip had changed into pants and a long sleeve shirt to swim, but was required to leave the pool because she was not appropriately dressed. A few years ago a woman who was canoeing drowned when her hijab got caught in the weeds.

rebil said...

I think I remember something about a woman being killed by a male family member. It is rare in America, but it does happen.

Marie said...

One may no longer use a thin cotton, floral chador anymore? Those are not too hot, they even help shield the sun. What makes one choke, of course, is that it's forced.

Rostam said...

sorry but you have a very twisted idea of Tarrof. That's not how an Iranian mind works! (that they don't want you becuase feeding a guest is expensive!!!!! That's a very non-Iranian/Western idea!)

They make tarrof as a form of politness, regadless their financial stability. In other words, making tarrof (a generious jesture without meaning it) is a cultural expections not out of financial ristrictions.

If an Iranian invites you but hopes secretly that you don't accept her/his invitaion (you are supposed to reject it) is not because s/he doesn't want to spend money, it's becuase s/he doesn't want to spend time with you. If an Iranian enjoys your company s/he does NOT care about money. What ever Iranians are they are cheap bastards.

Rostam said...

"a. Iranians are prone to exaggeration. All Iranians."

ALL Iranians???
How about you then? :P

Tori said...

Rostam, I would say that money is definitely an issue when it comes to taarof because offering hospitality means offering meat and other expensive items. I have heard from so many Iranian families about the expense of offering hospitality to people: even people whose company they enjoy. Perhaps women are more likely to speak about these matters than men. I have found that women often speak about financial issues that men ignore.

The notion of expense as Western? That's odd... I think that many Westerners traveling in Iran never think of the expense a host has gone to for them. It does not cross their minds.

I am not sure which post you are commenting about though.

And, yes, I am prone to exaggeration, or as my sisters would call it: superlatives... guilty as charged.