Tourist & Resident Guide to Iran

Friday, June 23, 2006

Visitor's view: Interpretations of hejab

The reception girls never turn up before 9. That means I’m in there with my thoughts for about 30 minutes before the school wakes up.

They have to wear the “maqne” because we are an educational establishment and have some small but important part to play in maintaining society’s values. For a woman, normal streetwear must include a headscarf tied over the hair and this is open to a range of interpretations.

It's pretty safe to judge who you can and who you mustn't chat up by how much hair a girl reveals. The maqne is the headdress of the education system and the office. It reveals the face, it frames the face, it isolates the face. It is impossible to look coquettish in a maqne. No woman would wear one as a matter of personal preference.

It is about as far as the authorities will push liberal-minded women to observe the dress code – force them to wear the less revealing, less comfortable covering in formal settings. And chador-wearers always wear chadors. It is hard to imagine, and it is seldom seen, that a tent- wearer (another common usage for the word “chador”) walk down the street with another wearing the hejab to a lesser degree of diligence. Never mind a fashion statement. Iranian women wear political statements.

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