To Veil or not to Veil: Iraqi Women Face Scrutiny

In 2012, banners forbidding unveiled women from entering the “holy” town were raised in the streets of Baghdad neighborhood Kadhimiya.

On Feb. 9, 2013, Iraqis organized a beauty festival that brought together specialists in the fields of makeup, hairdressing and fashion. These professionals showcased their talent on a small number of female participants, while many spectators came to observe the event.

One of the festival’s organizers, Nadia Hamza Fouad, told Agence France-Presse, “This activity [was] the first of its kind after the 2003 incidents. It is the first step to success.”

In Islam, “tabarruj” refers to a woman displaying her beauty outside of the home. On Sept. 17, 2014, the Ministry of Education forbade girls from committing tabarruj and imposed a conservative dress code on them that called for loose-fitting clothing.

The editor of the family and society page of Al-Sabah newspaper, Qasim Mozan, told Al-Monitor that refusing an unveiled woman a travel permit is a regressive move and a violation of their legal rights.

Meanwhile, Shaymaa al-Fatlawi, a member of the education committee of the Dhi Qar Provincial Council, called on the Minister of Education Mohammed Iqbal April 9 to “forbid tabarruj for schoolgirls since it contradicts the divine teachings, traditions and norms that children in Iraqi society have been brought up on.”

Iqbal responded to this proposal on April 11 by banning girls in Iraqi schools from wearing “indecent” clothes and other forms of tabarruj.

On Jan. 19, 2014, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani replied to an inquiry made by an Iraqi university student, seeking his opinion on the phenomenon of tabarruj in colleges and institutes. In a response published in various media outlets, Sistani said, “A woman’s spirit is not reflected in her tabarruj and ornaments, rather in her chastity and conservative appearance before other people.”

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