Burqa losing favor as Afghan women opt for chador

Mon Jul 6, 2009 8:16pm EDT
 
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By Golnar Motevalli

HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Nehmatullah Yusefy's burqa sales have dropped 50 percent since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 and he says he will soon need to start stocking other styles of Islamic dress to make up for lost profits.

Yusefy has sold the powder blue garb, which covers women from head to foot, for the past ten years. It was mandatory attire for women during the austere rule of the Islamist Taliban.

But he has done so reluctantly.

"I think, God willing, the sales of burqas will decrease, then I will sell chador namaz and even maybe mantau chalvar," Yusefy said, standing behind the counter of his small outlet on a strip of burqa shops in the main market of Herat city.

The chador namaz is a long, billowing dress in black or somber-patterned fabric which is widely worn in Iran. It exposes the woman's face but covers the rest of her head and body until her ankles.

Mantau chalvar is a long coat worn over trousers and it is popular with women in the capital Kabul, who are comparatively more free to dress as they choose. It is always worn with a scarf covering the head that is tied firmly under the chin.

Last week French President Nicholas Sarkozy condemned the burqa, saying it was not welcome in France because it was a symbol of subjugation of women.

"We cannot accept that some women in our country are prisoners behind a grille, cut off from social life, deprived of their identity," he said amid calls by some lawmakers to ban the burqa in France.   Continued...

 
<p>An Afghan woman looks at merchandise at a burqa shop in Herat in western Afghanistan July 2, 2009. Burqa seller Nehmatullah Yusefy's (not in picture) sales at the shop have dropped 50 percent since the Taliban were toppled in 2001 and he says he will soon need to start stocking competing styles of Islamic dress to make up for lost profits. Picture taken July 2, 2009.REUTERS/ Mohammad Shoiab</p>