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The Niqab Makes a Comeback

Before Soviet times, the various khanates and kingdoms of Central Asia had traditional styles for women’s dress, and, for the Muslim population, this incorporated religious standards of propriety. In Soviet times, however, the progressive woman employee was seen as needing to put this behind them and dress in ‘modern’ clothing.


A minority still held on to more traditional styles, without, however the old-fashioned ‘niqab’, veils covering the face from below the eyes to the neck which had been worn in larger towns and cities. Some, more traditional, families migrated to Afghanistan and other countries to keep their traditions.


 The ideological void after the collapse of communism, and the loosening of enforced secularism in the new independent states of Central Asia, led to religious and traditional revival.


 In Tajikistan, the revival has been more in evidence with a more Islamic style of dress amongst a growing minority of women.  More recently, facial masks have become a highly visible style of covering, alongside this revival.


 Possible reasons for the reappearance of this fashion could be more frequent contact with or periods of study and sojourn in the Arab world, and a reaction to government restrictions and somewhat secularising pressure. The religious revival could now have taken the form of pressure from the menfolk of families to display more conservative traditional values, and an increase in puritanical and fundamentalist interpretations of Islam.


In this multimedia package from Dushanbe we hear the point of view of a group of Tajik women on this topic.

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