Niqab in Iran – a very informative comment

I recently received this comment about a old post of mine on the wearing of Niqab in Iran, the writer brought to my attention how I overlooked the historic style of niqab worn by Persian women in Pre-Pahlavi Iran (pre 1930’s), thank you for bringing this to my attention! fekr mikonam, I am kind of silly for not remembering this!

She is talking about this style;

(Pre-Pahlavi-era urban Persian women)

Lily jaan, I believe the white “niqab” is called a ruband, but I am not entirely sure. I know now a days the Persian women in Qom who wear the flip-down style face covering called a boushiyyah in Arabic call it a poushiyyeh. I have heard of some Iranians talking about niqab as a ruband, but it seems to be pretty old fashioned terminology. If anyone knows the modern terminology please share!

I am sure it was only better-off urban Persian women who wore this, first because  the women normally lead a secluded lifestyle and two because it would be hard to work in the fields in such attire, and normally rural Persian Iranian women did a lot of field work, along side their male family members.

Before I finished University I looked through this hand-written, hand-painted book by this American guy who worked in Esfahan for a few years in the late 19-teens (around WW1 era) and one or two drawings showed urban, upper class Persian women sitting in public cafes wearing the knee length flapper dress with their chadors open around them, drinking tea, legs crossed, tights on with low heels and their rubands flipped up, so their faces and some of their hair was visible. I think eventually this style of dress became more like a “show” of ones background and social status, with little regard for it’s purpose.

Thats interesting how you have seen Persian niqabaat boarding in Dubai for Tehran. I wonder if maybe they were Khaleeji Persians (Gulf Arabs of Persian background) which there seem to be a lot of them. Or maybe they were headed to Qom. Hmmm.  I have yet to see any Persian Iranian women wearing niqab in Iran, except for in Qom. I have seen many Gulf Arab tourists in Esfahan wearing it though and their attire got a LOT of stares and comments from the Iranians around them.

I am slated to go back for several months sometime this spring so we’ll see whether I see any this trip. Without further blather, here is her comment in it’s entirity. Please note that all the pictures in my Niqab in Iran post have suddenly disappeared, so I will try to find them and replace them in the next few days.

Submitted on 2009/12/01 at 2:15pm by LILY

I just discovered your blog today and it’s very interesting. Just to add to this topic, your right, most of the time the women who traditionally wear some kind of stylized niqab are iranians of arab decent, usually in the south. Although, in the last 10 years, it’s more common to see Persian Iranians wearing it in more conservative places like Qom or Mashad. Although…they could be Shiite Arabs visiting the holy cities, but in any case it’s a sight you see more then you use to, but I’ve never seen a niqabi in Tehran (north or south!) but I’d believe it. I haven’t been to Iran in about 2 years, but I’ve seen persian niqabis boarding the airplane in Dubai for Tehran.

Additionally though, what you have not mentioned is the name of garment whose name I CANNOT remember right now, but it was traditionally worn by “Persian” women, VERY commonly in all across Iran, especially by the wealthier class when they went out. It’s a separate piece that looks like the front of an Afghan Burqa, but it is tied around the head like a niqab over the chador and was usually white.

It took me a long time but I was able to find this old photograph from Iran online of women wearing it that I had previously seen when researching it:

and also, here, which dates the picture in the early 20th century:

Here’s another one, described as a “Qajar court-style chador (1880)” but it has actually, like i’ve said, it’s own name:

Also I found this link which has perfect illustrations of this thing:

I never knew about it until I read “blood of flowers” by Anita Amirrezvani, an AMAZING fictional novel about a young girl in 17th century Esfahan. Anyway, much like Atatürk in Turkey, Reza Shah pretty much banned women from wearing chadors / hijab in the 1930’s so I’m pretty sure that’s when this garment really disappeared. Last year I asked my grandmother (over 80 years old, mashAllah) who remembered HER grandmother sometimes wearing it. And her family is FROM Tehran so…


4 thoughts on “Niqab in Iran – a very informative comment

  1. Salaam OldSchoolHejabi jaan!

    engahd khoshahl hastam ke mitonestam yek chizi “contribute” konam. As oon rooz keh comment nevershtam, blog entri-haye ghadmi khondam va mashAllah, maloomeh keh besiar layeq hasti. (can u tell my farsi is zaif?!) I really enjoy your perspectives on Islam and life, especially since i think we’ve got a lot in common form the little personal bits and pieces you’ve shared, makhsosan familet va and dealing with Iroonia digeh keh ya Islam dorost nemifahmam ya doost nadaran. Man khodam kam kam nazdik tar amadam beh Islam, aslan hanoz shoro nakardam poshidaneh hejab, amaa az hala barayeh man maloom hast keh yek jang-e bozork bah familiam va doosthayeh familam shooro misheh, u know what i mean? i just started a blog too, it’s still totally a work in process but check it out if you have time.

    khodah nehgahdar

  2. Hello,
    I just “stumbled” over this article some time ago, but didn´t find the time to contribute. As a hobby historian with a special interest in veils and veiling through the centuries this type of historical Persian ( prefer the old term for what is now called Iran ) faceveil got into my focus about 10 years or so ago. It was difficult to get information on the subject then, as the web wasn´t as developed as today and there is not much written information available on the subject. As some of the comments written before state, this specific veil was called ru-band, what literally means “over the face”. It appeared around the 15th century, early version showed the eyes, one century later the lattice was incorporated. This version was used by urban women until 1936 when the veil was banned by Reza Shah. The veil was always white, about knee-length, made of cotton, linen or silk and fastened with a – sometimes very precious – clasp at the back of the head. The other veil mentioned in the comment above was called petche – a dark, stiff veil like a visor made of horsehair, it replaced the white ru-band in some urban areas like in Tehran in the nineteen-twenties. The ru-band was used together with the well known chador in it´s different forms, both garments in garment with a specific form of baggy trousers called cakshir ( hope the iranian ladies here don´t mind my spelling ). Interesting enough the ru-band was also used in neighbouring Afghanistan until the 70´s – as an alternative to the well known chadri / burqa, which is direct derivative of the chador – ru-band combination – but that is another story. I got so fascinated by the ru-band that I had some recreated items made for my personal collection by a skilled Pakistani tailor. Hope you will find my information helpful.

Comments are closed.