Sisters in Hoods

I wear a hejab in Iran. The country requires this of me. And I do, as requires. As I have done before, and as I will do again, in my life.

Turns out, I dislike and like it. I dislike it; because it’s an order! The little bit of teenager that still resides in me, rebels. And initially it’s a bother. But soon it becomes a habit. Ha – a nun’s habit! It’s bizarre. I almost start to like it … for practical reasons. It offers great protection against the sun. It works well with the helmet. It catches my hair and wraps around my neck, with ease in and out of the helmet. It is quicker to arrange than hair. Sometimes I even feel prettier with it. And it allows the ‘introvert’ me to retreat … although, Harry doesn’t like this. He wants the ‘bubbly’ me up-front. But most of all I like it, for a beautiful sense it gifts. A sense, I belong …

I belong, at least for our stay here, to women in Iran.

And it is not my imagination. Harry gets it too and calls out my “sisterhood looks”. As we walk, I collect a sky-high pile of these looks. Unlike anywhere else, these ‘looks’ deliberately exclude men, and my Harry. These looks, between ‘hooded’ sisters and I, for precious moments stand still. From under my veil, your veil, our veils. We pull together, we cohere.

And we savour our similarities and our differences.

And this I know …

Your robes do not mark you!

There is a headscarf, a hejab, a manteau, a chador, for every girl and every occasion. And you wear it ALL with aplomb! Some of you find comfort in the black chador; others push the envelope. The headscarf slips, the jeans are skinny, the heels are high, the colours are bright, the leggings are shapely, a shoulder shows and wisps of hair fall.

We do not see downtrodden women in Iran. No, you are not the hapless Muslim women. You are not oppressed by your culture, slave to an uncaring God and servants to your men. You are not the ‘caged virgins’ we hear of in the west.

I do not mean to belittle your limitations. You have many! I have none. But I suspect these limitations make you different, stronger, deeper …

You pour over matters, so complicated. With roots that lie deep; history, culture, heritage, religion, gender and class. And we can’t begin to understand! Your Nobel laureate, Shirin Ebadi and film-maker, Samira Makhmalbaf cut to the bones of these matters. While sport stars win the right to wear the hejab at international sporting events in 2014. We see, it is not as simple as we think!

Iranian women make gains, every day, within an Islamic framework.

And this I know … Feminism is alive in Iran.

Contemplating the hejab ….

Some limitations seem ridiculous … like the separation of sexes on public transport ….

Other cultural practices make more sense … women regularly receive expensive jewellery from husbands … this functions as insurance policies.

And can you imagine suggesting that these elderly ladies change their ways …

… or these ladies … they are wrapped around my bike and determined to get me upstairs to … stencil my eyebrows, line my lips, highlight my cheekbones and fix my hair.

Sometimes the choice of covering simply feels like a generational thing …

… or a matter of the old facing off against the new …

… but everywhere we see the full range … from simple headscarf to full black chador …

And everywhere we see girls, ladies and women that seem to know excatly what they want ….

And we see girls, ladies and women that look very comfortable and confident with themselves …

Look how smartly each one of these school girls are dressed.

And here is another group of school girls …

… for whom hopefully … ONLY THE SKY IS THE LIMIT …


8 Responses to Sisters in Hoods

  1. Anonymous

    Well that’s another piece of clothing to wear is the hejab, they all look very pretty in their comfortable outfits.
    Great Merry go round- or whatever its called, not for me though wizzing around on that thing. stay safe Debbie – Durban.

  2. Naude.K

    Our liberal Linda, another interesting and insightful article. Glad to see the little rebel teenager still reside inside you LOL. I remember watching a TV debate in Jordan years ago when a panel of woman debated about these traditional vs. modern views. Sometimes a pity that change takes time. Safe travels, Nods.

  3. Anonymous

    Thank you for yet another piece of brilliance! The Souq! Ag, the Souq. Those vaulted ceilings… (sobs – remembering my favourite in Damascus, now just rubble). Seeing the fair – Lils, I have a vague memory of the two of us, possibly in 1984 at the Fun Fair. If I recall, the contents of my handbag fell out when we were upside down, and I believe you got a tad nauseous…… Sisterhoods – our amazing class sisterhood would be met with much approval in Iran, me thinks.
    I recall our transition from Sudan into Egypt. Having being covered for a few weeks as is the custom in Sudan, it was almost a personal affront to see girls clad in skimpy tops and shorts. In fact, in Sudan, a henna tattooed ankle elicited more “woofs” from our fellow travellers than the touristy bareness just up along the Nile.
    I concur, there is much to be said about the “hooded sisterhood”….

  4. Les Penny

    Poor Harry, no special requirements, no attention, all the focus on the woman. I wonder if they view the union of a man and woman as a betterment for both the man and woman, or do they not consider the value of the one for the other, I wonder if the have a divorce rate as high as western cultures, or what the infidelity incidences might be, the woman look happy, are they. Very interesting read and thought provoking. Thank you.

  5. Anonymous

    A refreshing and insightful take on an often bedeviled tradation. Thanks for the perspective

  6. Anonymous

    We both wore jelubas in Morocco. People in the streets would call out Ali and Fatima! The kids store popcorn in the hood so we started using it as storage too. Lots of love

  7. gail van der mey

    go girls go! How lovely. I am learning from each post and loving it. I won’t forget the hejab!

  8. Colin

    What would I look like wearing a hejab? L O L ! Strict customs women have to abide to in Iran. Great post.
    Looking forward to your next post.
    All the best Colin from Durban.

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