Wednesday, January 09, 2002

BURQA-A-GO-GO: Vivienne Walt of USA Today becomes the latest person to go underburqa in Afghanistan. She reports on the differences between Kabul and Kandahar:

In dozens of interviews here throughout December, no man said women should stop wearing burqas, even though the Taliban had been routed from Kandahar, its spiritual birthplace. Their unwillingness to endorse a change didn't stem merely from the widespread support here for the Taliban. The burqa's place in Afghan society is more complicated and deeply rooted than that.

''It is from 250 years ago,'' says Haji Faqir Mohammad, 52, who repairs cars in Kandahar's central market. ''Only in King (Mohammad) Zahir Shah's time did some girls go to school without burqas,'' he adds, referring to the monarch who ruled from 1933 to 1973.

Kandahari men roundly reject a return to that freedom. ''We don't want women to be like they are in the West,'' says Juma Khan, 32, a spare-parts dealer in the city's crumbling auto-repair bazaar. ''We hope that this new government will bring a little freedom for women, but it has to agree with both Islam and Pashtun tribalism.''

She also reports that the sky-blue Afghan burqas are called chaderis, but then goes back to calling them burqas in the article. I guess I can keep calling them burqas too.

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