Burqa-Chadari


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Burqa-chadari, is a full body and head covering for outside the home for many women in Afghanistan. The Burqa is constructed of about ten yards fabric with an embroidered mesh face piece which conceals the entire women's dress ensemble of pants, overdress, and head scarf.

The burqa is not only worn in Afghanistan but it's more common in other countries including India and Pakistan. The original chadari has Persian origins but over the time period it became associated with the urban dress of middle and upper class Afghan women. The chadaree has been incorrectly attributed as Afghan women's traditional dress but it only became mandated women's wear after dress sanctions were imposed by the Taliban in 1996.

    

During the Taliban women had to wear this piece of heavy cloth on top of their normal clothing to cover them from the head to lower calf or to ankle. In the first days when the Taliban captured Kabul and announced that all women have to wear 'Chadaree' outside of home, many women were shocked, especially in the capital Kabul. They wondered how they were going to wear 3 pounds of extra weight of clothes on top of their formal and informal clothing. It was really difficult for the women who had never worn it before.

I was living in Kabul during that time and I witnessed many women falling off bicycles and being hit by cars when their burqa-Chadari went under the tire of the bicycle. Also, injuries occured when they were transported on the back of the cycle and their Chadari got caught in the spokes. Women also frequently simply tripped and fell because it was cumbersome to walk in. After a couple months of wearing this piece of cloth on a daily basis, Afghan women got used to wearing it. Every woman, including my mom and my female relatives experienced the problems of wearing the Chadari during the hot summer times and cold, icy, slippery winter times. The toughest times for wearing this blue huge piece of cloth was the hottest days of the summer when the temperature was around 46 Celsius which is about 114 Fahrenheit and every woman had to have their normal clothing as well as the chadari on top.

The air circulation of the burqa-chadari is very poor and there is a small mesh face piece on the front top part so the wearer can barely see the pathway. Due to lack of air in 114 Fahrenheit hot weather, women who have shortness of breath or Asthma often faint on the streets. During the five years of the Taliban regime every single woman has experienced the problems of wearing the Chadari in Afghanistan. After the fall of Taliban in 2001, a small percentage of women, mostly in Kabul, were free from wearing this blue piece of cloth. Around other parts of Afghanistan still the culture of wearing burqa remains as some Afghan women are forced to wear the 'burqa-chadari' whether by their families or the society laws.

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