“In Afghanistan, you don’t wear the scarf, the scarf wears you.”

The scarf. Some view it as oppression, while other view it as a sign of liberty. To be completely honest, I don’t care what you have to say because all that really matters is your own personal choice.

When I first visited Afghanistan during the fifth grade–a time where I was starting to get told to wear a trainer’s bra–I was mad and furious. Why? Well because I didn’t see the faces of any women, nor did I see their hair, and sometimes even their eyes. I immediately assumed that they were all being oppressed by their husbands, brothers, and even fathers. I mean come on; give me a break. I was born and raised here in the “land of the free,” with a democratic and westernized point of view; what more did you expect from an Americanized brain sitting inside a ten year old visiting Afghanistan for the first time?

I saw girls my age wearing scarves on their heads; some even younger. I was pissed. I thought they were all oppressed so I decided not to wear one. In Afghanistan.

Let’s just say I learned my lesson:

Being the rebel that I thought I was, one morning my mom woke me up as I was to visit the market place in Kabul on Chicken Street (and yes that’s the name of a street). After wearing my track suit–as I was into looking like an athlete at the time even though I wasn’t one–my mom gave me a thin scarf and told me to wrap my head. I really didn’t listen to her and placed it around my neck and she didn’t really care, for we both thought that “I was just a kid.”

Walking with a pony tail that was waving like a dog’s tail on the back of my head with fly aways covering my eyes, the two of us along with my aunt who lived in Kabul began to walk into a crowd of people. There was everything and anything one could ever imagine. It was like walking into a crowded street at the Fashion District in Downtown Los Angeles on a Saturday morning where all you could hear are the echos of Mexican immigrants selling their mangoes while saying, “fiy dolas, fiy dolas, fiy dolas,” as in “five dollars, five dollars, five dollars.” Instead of mangoes though, these Afghans were selling sweet melons; oh and goat heads.

After my mother purchased two ruffle potato cutters (which we still haven’t used), the three of us began walking towards a rug store. It was chaos. I was short then and everyone was walking in their own direction, making it harder to walk through. I was holding onto my mothers hand very tightly at this one point as I thought we were going to get separated. To be honest, I felt like a Jew at a Nazi’s camp. Approaching the edges of the human whirl pool, I began to feel fingers approach and squeeze my left butt cheek. Yes. I got grabbed.

I looked back and all I could see were men. I felt embarrassed to say anything. I mean I was just ten?


I didn’t learn my lesson right then and there. As a matter of fact I think I learned it now.

Trying to rebel against an established system doesn’t do any good when you are standing out. I always fight and say that women aren’t given a choice in a place like Afghanistan, but to be honest the answer is right in front of us. The current conditions and environment don’t allow women to be given the choice as to whether or not they should wear a scarf. Everyone is afraid of each other for traditions and culture rule the area more than a choice.

There is absolutely nothing horrifying with wearing a scarf though. As a matter of fact I believe it’s beautiful and provides “noor” to one. It protects a women and makes them feel safe. You force yourself to wear one when in Afghanistan as it helps you blend in; it comforts you. Blending in seems safer and that is why, “In Afghanistan, you don’t wear the scarf, the scarf wears you.” Whether it’s a burqa or scarf, Afghan women wear them as a sign of protection in the end.

Whether they are oppressed or not, women become adapted into working that scarf on their heads for there will always be that one man in a million who might just approach them the same way I was. And on the bright side, one can eat a burger inside a burqa without anyone else noticing that you did. It’s a win-win situation, I guess?

I pray that one day communities in Afghanistan are able to allow women to have these choices as there are some women who wouldn’t mind showing off their new hair do. But for now ladies, let’s give it time. Nothing changes over night; and besides scarves are pretty! Be sassy and own that scarf when walking through the streets of Afghanistan!

And remember: In Afghanistan, you don’t wear the scarf, the scarf wears you.

Where East Meets West,
Hila Hamidi
Silk Road Republic 


Comments (3)

August 23, 2013 - 8:18 PM /

Nice post.

محقق محمد اکبر امینی
July 29, 2013 - 8:10 AM /

من به دختری افغان زادۀ مانند تو افتخار میکنم که پیام واقعبیانه وعالمانۀ برای کسانی فرستادی که همین اکنون در خارج از افغانستان در پشت سایت ها و فیسبوک های خود نشسته اند و برای زنان افغان شعار میدهند که گویا نفرین کردن چادری، چادر و دین اسلام یگانه راۀ نجات و رسیدن به آزادی شان در شرایط فعلی است.
من با شما دختر نابغۀ افغان هم عقیده هستم که تغییر در حیات اجتماعی زنان متناسب به درجۀ تغییر در زیربنا و ساختار اجتماعی جامعه رونما میگردد. کشور ما بقول یک دانشمند بزرگ افغان ما محترم داکتر نظار، از لحاظ تکامل تاریخی اش مدت تقریباً 1700 سال نسبت به کشور امریکا عقب مانده تر است. زنان ما در جریان تکامل تدریجی تاریخی کشور شان بتدریج به آزادی می رسند نه یکباره و اکنون با دور انداختن چادر و چادری و تقلید کردن از زنان امریکایی و یا اروپایی.
این مدافعین حقوق و آزادی زنان مقیم خارج که هر روز از طریق صفحات فیسبوک و سایت های شان زنان متدین و با وقار ساکن افغانستان را به طغیان و سرکشی تشویق میکنند، هنوز آنچه را که خود ات درک کرده ای درک کرده نتوانسته اند. این مدافعین حقوق و آزادی زنان که اکثر شان زنان شاعر و قلم بدست ما میباشند باید حقایق و واقعیت های عینی جامعۀ افغانی شان را درک کنند و بدانند که کشور شان در کجای تاریخ قرار دارد و با تبلیغات غیر واقعبیانانۀ شان خشونت علیۀ زنان مظلوم ما را در داخل افغانستان بیشتر از این دامن نزنند و پیروزی انقلاب اسلامی طالبان را موجب نگردند.

July 29, 2013 - 4:03 AM /

I loved your story. I wish for a world in which men treat women with the same respect they want their mom and sisters treated with.

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