Aynaz Hossein Khani English Transcript

Interviewee: Aynaz Hossein Khani

Interview date: August 19th, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 55 min 22 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Aynaz: I am 28 years old.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Aynaz: I am originally from Shiraz, but I got married, and now I reside in Isfahan.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Aynaz: Well, I was born in Shiraz and grew up there. I’ve been living in Isfahan for about six months now.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Aynaz: I am the manager of a gym, a basketball player, and I have a master’s degree in forensic science.

Zahra: What type of education have you completed and where did you complete it?

Aynaz: I have a master’s degree in forensic science from the University of Sciences and Research in Tehran.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Aynaz: I am female.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Aynaz: Yes, I am married.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Aynaz: No.

Zahra: Can you tell me about your extended family? How big is it?

Aynaz: Well, I think compared to those who are Lur or Turkish, it’s relatively large. Lurs and Turks, at least in my hometown Shiraz, are generally larger. If I want to mention second-degree relatives, I have four aunts, four uncles, six paternal cousins, and five maternal cousins. They are so many that I get confused sometimes.

Zahra: How much connection do you feel to your immediate or extended family?

Aynaz: A lot. I can say 98% of my time, and overall, I have always been with my family since the beginning of my life. Thankfully, our relationships are strong, and with such a large family, we don’t have much time for friends because our family is extensive.

Zahra: Where do your relatives live?

Aynaz: All my uncles, aunts, cousins I mentioned are in Shiraz. I broke tradition by getting married and coming to Isfahan.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Aynaz: No.

Zahra: What is the current household income level?

Aynaz: Well, if I include my father, he’s a lawyer. I have two brothers who are also lawyers. One of them just got married two or three months ago. Their level is good, I can say it’s above average. For myself, having a gym is good considering that I spent the money on it. I invested in the gym for myself, supporting only me, not my family, not my husband, not the house. It’s good for me.

Zahra: But if you consider it for your family with your husband, it might be average to above average.

Aynaz: No, if I have to cover the expenses for a family, it will definitely not be a good life with it. But being single is good; I can spend freely.

Zahra: But you and your husband are fine with each other, right?

Aynaz: Yes, yes.

Zahra: Do you have any religious affiliations?

Aynaz: No, not really. I can’t say I have a strong religious affiliation.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Aynaz: Honestly, when the term Qashqai comes up, I get a bit emotional. It’s not in my control, but it’s our authenticity. It’s something I can’t express in words. It’s very valuable to me to talk about Qashqai culture with you. At least show the Americans how beautiful our traditions are, our clothing. Thank you. I wish someone else could answer this question to provide a broader perspective because what I say will be very limited and partial. Authenticity becomes cliché if I want to say it in general because everyone can consider what they have as authentic to their own ethnicity and the city they are affiliated with. But being Qashqai is completely beyond just being authentic. I can say we are a tribe that, no matter how much we try to distance ourselves from our authenticity, when the name Qashqai comes up, when the name of its clothing comes up, we get emotional. It’s like something that seems to be present in every particle of our being. It’s not in our control; we can’t choose it or set it aside. It’s something beautiful present in the cells of our bodies.

Zahra: Was there a time when you felt more or less Qashqai than others?

Aynaz: Well, I really feel much less Qashqai compared to my brother, let me put it simply. Yes, there have been times when I genuinely felt less Qashqai. Considering that I’m so emotional about it, imagine what others might feel.

Zahra: Have you ever had negative or positive feelings about being Qashqai?

Aynaz: Well, some people have very specific biases against Qashqais, but, of course, these biases exist in our Iranian culture. Sometimes these biases have bothered me, but it’s something we can’t change. Despite all the annoyances, we still love it. In the end, it’s our authenticity.

Zahra: Share your experiences regarding the Qashqai community. How are you involved?

Aynaz: Currently, I have distanced myself a lot. I can say I am not involved at all because my husband is from Isfahan, and I think I’ve picked up some of their accent. But in my experiences, I can say that, in terms of the community, you know very well that we Qashqais are exceptionally large, and we strongly believe that our marriages should be familial. It matters a lot to them. I mean, my mom and dad are maternal cousins, my brother’s wife is my paternal cousin, my sister-in-law is my maternal cousin; we are genetically very mixed. This makes us very cohesive, very united. They try not to mix this purity and not to get involved with other races. That’s how I see it.

Zahra: What traditional clothes and accessories do you wear?

Aynaz: Well, about clothes, let me start with the Turkic terms. We wear “Charqad,” and underneath that, we have a small hat called “Kolahche” to secure our hair. We tie the “Charqad” around it. Then comes the “Yaghlo” that we tie around the “Charqad.” Now, the long shirt and skirt go on, and under the skirt, there is another layer that gives a puffy look to the skirt. In some seasons, like when it’s cold, we wear “Arkhaluq,” which is a short and beautiful garment. I wore it once, and my mother-in-law liked it so much she said, “Bring it; let’s take it to Isfahan for you to wear there.” We wear it casually, even in gatherings. As for accessories, the most attractive thing for me is when brides or those who got engaged throw “Mikhak” and “Mahlo” around their necks. It’s fascinating and beautiful. I recently experienced it myself since I got married a few months ago, and it was really enjoyable.

Zahra: What is the material of the clothes?

Aynaz: The clothes have no restrictions. At least from what I’ve seen, there are no limitations on the fabrics we use. We can use any fabric. The only thing is that the skirt must have a certain puffiness, not too much, just a medium puff, which is crucial. Our clothes are usually made from satin fabrics, and the more embellished they are with stones, the more people like them. I had a dress made by my mom for the wedding, which I didn’t wear because it was so heavy. It was so heavy that I said I can’t wear it comfortably; it’s too cumbersome. It was beautiful, all white, with heavy embellishments on the skirt and the upper part. Since I’m quite tall, around 183 cm, the skirt is longer for people with more height. It needs to be puffier to show itself, so it became heavy. I remember my mom spent around 35 million on just buying the fabric. Yes, it gets a bit more expensive if, for example, they are wedding dresses. They buy more precious fabrics. What was I saying? About the fabric material. Yes, it was tough for me to wear it, but I did wear it at my brother’s wedding. Another tradition they have is that in subsequent weddings, especially in weddings after the main one, the brides wear their Qashqai wedding dresses again. They wear white dresses to show that they are still newlyweds. Yes, I wore white in my brother’s wedding, which was two or three months ago. It’s evident that we are not brides anymore, but we wear white to signify it. I don’t know how it works, but yes, white is a must. I’ve seen various materials like velvet, satin, silk, and even some fabrics you may have seen, like the “Yaghloq” they wear, which I saw some women decorate beautifully with beads and it looked really lovely.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Aynaz: Generally, the brighter, the more beautiful. Yes, brides wear white, but for those who are relatively older, the color might vary. Black, dark blue, but young people mostly wear any color they like: yellow, red, white, pink. We have no restrictions; the more vibrant, the prettier, actually.

Zahra: What kind of jewelry do you wear?

Aynaz: It depends on personal taste, and it also depends on the family’s status. Some people like to wear very long, large, and thick jewelry. They believe that since their clothes are vibrant and adorned, wearing large gold or gemstone jewelry complements their look. I haven’t seen it in my family, but I heard of something called “Maahiche.” I don’t know if it has another name, but it’s like a gold piece they throw around their neck, from one side near the ear to the other side under the chin. Then, they attach a pin to keep it in place, usually a gold pin or any jewelry they prefer. Most of the “Mikhak” and “Mahlo” I’ve seen are adorned with beautiful colored beads, like carnelian or ruby. They make an ornament at the bottom, usually with a gold pendant.

Zahra: Where do you get these clothes or accessories?

Aynaz: As for the clothes, in Shiraz, I can say that 90% are from the Vakil Bazaar. As for jewelry, you can almost find it in the Vakil Bazaar, the gold market, or the silver market. Anyone can buy from anywhere they like.

Zahra: What are the traditional clothes and accessories that you wear?

Aynaz: Well, let me start with the traditional clothing. First, if I want to say it in Turkish, we begin with the “Charqad” (headscarf). Underneath, we have a cap that we put on to keep our hair in place. Then we tie the “Charqad” over it. After that, there’s the “Yaqluq,” which is a cloth we tie around it. Now, the long shirt and skirt go over it. Under the skirt, there’s another layer giving a puffy look, and in colder seasons, some people wear “Arqalooq,” which is a short and beautiful garment. I wore it recently after getting married, and my mother-in-law liked it so much, she said, “Bring it; let’s take it to Isfahan and wear it there,” for special occasions and events. Now, regarding accessories, the most attractive thing for me is when brides or newlyweds throw confetti around their necks. I find it charming and beautiful. I recently experienced it myself after getting married, and it was very enjoyable.

Zahra: What is the material of the clothes?

Aynaz: The materials are quite diverse; there are no specific restrictions. From what I’ve seen, you can use any fabric. The only important thing is that the skirt must have a moderate puffiness, not too much. The fabrics are usually satin or well-worked fabrics. The more intricate the embroidery, the more people like it. For instance, I had a dress made by my mother for my wedding, and it was so heavy that I couldn’t wear it during the ceremony. It was beautifully decorated with stones and quite expensive, but it was too heavy for me. People generally prefer lighter and more comfortable dresses.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Aynaz: Generally, the brighter, the more beautiful. Brides typically wear white, but for older women, darker colors like black or navy blue are common. Younger people usually prefer any color they like, such as yellow, red, white, or pink. There are no strict rules, and the key is to have vibrant and beautiful colors.

Zahra: What jewelry do you wear?

Aynaz: The choice of jewelry depends on personal taste, and it also varies based on the preferences within different families. Some people like to wear very long, large, and bold jewelry. Their belief is that since their clothing is vibrant and elaborate, eventually, the jewelry stands out on top of the clothing. They may throw in large gold pieces or intricate designs that catch the eye, whether it’s necklaces, bracelets, or earrings. In my own family, I haven’t seen this trend, but I’ve heard of something called “Maahicheh.” I’m not sure if it has another name, but it’s a gold piece that is thrown around the ear from one side to the other, extending from below the earlobe to under the jaw. They also attach a pin with gold or any other jewelry they prefer. I’ve observed that in the case of nose rings and earrings, people often use colorful and attractive beads such as agate or ruby in their nose rings or earrings. They create beautiful patterns or use gemstones in their designs, and sometimes they add a gold pendant at the bottom for extra flair.

Zahra: Where do you get these clothes or accessories?

Aynaz: For clothes, about 90% are obtained from the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz. As for jewelry, we mainly buy it from the Vakil Bazaar or the gold and silver market. People can purchase them from various places or have them specially made. The variety and uniqueness of the Vakil Bazaar make it a popular choice.

Zahra: Do you make them?

Aynaz: Yes, I remember from around the age of ten or twelve; my mom, aunts, and even I used to sew “charqad” ourselves. I recall holding my mom’s wedding “charqad” and seeing her sew it with her own hands. I have observed family members sewing beautiful dresses with intricate designs and beads. However, nowadays, we usually give it to tailors to embroider it professionally.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Aynaz: Yes, it has become very common for us to take our garments to skilled embroiderers, and interestingly, many of them are Afghans. I’ve heard that Afghans are known for their excellent embroidery work, and people often recommend them for intricate designs. It has indeed become quite prevalent.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Aynaz: Yes, they keep them for us, and for instance, I used my mother’s “charqad” during my wedding. I put it on my face for the “aqd” (marriage contract) ceremony and then took it off, but they keep it for us as a valuable and memorable item.

Zahra: Do you purchase them from a store?

Aynaz: No, I’ve never seen anyone buying or ready-made garments. Some may rent outfits for special occasions or photography sessions, but generally, we either sew them ourselves or get them tailored. Most tailors in Shiraz can create the desired designs and patterns.

Zahra: Why do you prefer getting them from the places you mentioned?

Aynaz: The Vakil Bazaar is a unique place with a wide variety of fabrics, especially when it comes to colors and patterns. It provides the best prices, proximity, and access to diverse materials. We can easily find whatever we need there. Additionally, the Vakil Bazaar allows us to tailor our dresses according to our specific needs and preferences.

Zahra: What does traditional clothing mean to you?

Aynaz: Traditional clothing, for me, is a reminder of our heritage, a connection to the past when our ancestors led a different lifestyle as nomads. It reflects the diverse conditions they faced in their lives. I feel that these clothes were created based on the circumstances of that time. Although they have become part of our heritage and identity, their practical use has diminished. We mostly use them in our celebrations, symbolizing our cultural roots.

Zahra: Have these meanings changed throughout your life?

Aynaz: In my opinion, the meanings that our clothes have for us are very beautiful. We lived in an Islamic society, and there has always been a veil in it. Qashqai people have been Muslims for many years, but what was different was that we didn’t wear a headscarf. I mean, the veil we wore on our heads was very thin, like a small piece of fabric that just adds a nice touch, it’s not really a cover. This means that our hair is visible because we didn’t have a veil like what is insisted on in Iran. It means that the headscarf, the scarf, and the veil are not placed on the head in the way they should be. In Qashqai culture, they never paid much attention to the sensitivity about covering the head and hair. I think it’s beautiful because I feel it returns to the authenticity of being Iranian. Being Qashqai means being pure Iranian, and this issue has not affected us much.

Zahra: So, the feeling it gives you is a sense of authenticity, and it has become even stronger for you, right?

Aynaz: Yes, exactly.

Zahra: Does the meaning of traditional clothing change when you are in different spaces or places?

Aynaz: I only see the meaning of our clothes in joy. Something I see now is that I have only seen this dress in times of joy or when we feel good. I have never seen this dress in mourning or in times when, for example, there are difficult family situations. I feel that even if someone wears it, it’s inappropriate. It’s a symbol of joy, a symbol that we wore it, and we are happy with it. I think the only conditions under which this dress can create something in me are when everything is fine, and I feel good.

Zahra: So, in fact, it doesn’t change much because you only wear it in your joyous times, right?

Aynaz: Yes, we only wear it in our joyful moments.

Zahra: Do you think some traditional clothes are more authentic than others? Why?

Aynaz: Well, one hundred percent, the more traditional dresses are somewhat more authentic. They give us a sense of authenticity. I think they only show us the authenticity, not anything else. It just shows us that this is what we are, or, for example, other dresses like the Turkmens have a little difference, the Lurs have a small difference, the Kurds have a small difference. It only shows our identity, not anything else, to me. It doesn’t represent something else, just our identity, and for us, it brings a good feeling, nothing else.

Zahra: So, the answer to the question is mostly no, and you think all clothes are equally authentic, right?

Aynaz: All clothes are equally authentic, yes.

Zahra: Does obtaining it from a particular place make it more authentic?

Aynaz: No, it can’t have an impact.

Zahra: Does the use of different materials or who makes the clothes make them more authentic?

Aynaz: Their authenticity… I can say the authenticity might vary a bit. For example, if there’s an old dress that belonged to, let’s say, someone in a large Qashqai family or a large family in general, like a dress that belonged to my grandmother, she might personally value it more. For each person, it might increase or decrease the value personally. However, to say that a dress, if someone acquires it, can significantly affect its authenticity, not really. I don’t think it has much influence on the authenticity of the clothes.

Zahra: If you wear the dress in different places, does it make it more authentic?

Aynaz: Well, I personally say I don’t wear this dress in other places or with people of my age. However, my grandmother wears Qashqai clothes most of the time, and she feels very comfortable with them. They have become accustomed to it, and, well, it suits them a lot. Now, it’s a bit unconventional to wear Qashqai clothes in the streets or anywhere else, and it might be considered breaking norms in Iran. But someone who wears that dress everywhere might be considered more authentic, and it shows that they are a bit more courageous and that they can wear it anywhere, and they don’t care that much.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings or attitudes towards traditional clothing?

Aynaz: Well, you see, if I want to express the most emotional scene I have about our clothes in words, it would be when we dance with a handkerchief while wearing those clothes. Especially that moment, maybe the answer is similar to last year’s, perhaps the authenticity of our clothes becomes more apparent at that moment. It becomes more influential. When I see the scene of dancing with the handkerchief, my emotions get involved, and sometimes I feel that our clothes look much more beautiful at that moment. It’s like our clothes have a greater significance to me than the ordinary state. If someone just puts on the clothes and stands in front of me, it seems very normal, but when they are wearing those clothes in the field with those large handkerchiefs, dancing with the rhythm of Qashqai, it looks much more beautiful to me.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings when wearing traditional clothing, for example, during handicraft activities?

Aynaz: If the clothes are comfortable, I can say I feel good, but if they are heavy, I am always worried. I think these clothes have been modified too much because they shouldn’t have been so heavy before. In the past, they used to live their lives with these clothes, but now, we wear them only for weddings and celebrations. They have put all their efforts into making these clothes look beautiful, and it becomes a bit difficult. I sometimes say, “Oh, these clothes really tire me,” but when I wear a comfortable traditional outfit that I like, I feel good. It’s like, “Okay, I wore something comfortable that I like.”

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings when wearing traditional clothes, especially during handicrafts?

Aynaz: If the outfit is comfortable, I can say I feel good. But if it’s heavy, I’m always worried, thinking that these clothes have been altered. They shouldn’t have been this heavy because in the past, people used to live with these clothes. But now, just for weddings and celebrations, they’ve put all the pressure on these clothes to make them more beautiful. It becomes a bit difficult. For me, every time I wear a heavy dress, I think, “Oh, I wish I didn’t wear it.” It’s tough. I come home at night, and my waist is all bruised because the dress is so heavy. But when it’s a comfortable dress, and in my opinion, our traditional clothes have always been comfortable, I feel good. I say, “I wore something comfortable that I like,” and I really enjoy it.

Zahra: For example, do you have a special feeling? I don’t know if you did the embroidery yourself or made the Malho yourself, or if you were involved in handicrafts. Did you have a special feeling during those times?

Aynaz: Well, I’ve never done it myself, but our mothers used to do it. They used to knit their own socks, make their own Malu, sew their own clothes, and do their own embroidery. Certainly, their feelings were beautiful, like when I want to make something to wear at my wedding. It’s very attractive; a person does it with love. Most of those things our mothers did were done with love. If it weren’t for someone like my mom, who kept her clothes to give them to me, I wouldn’t have them to use. There are a lot of emotions attached to it; it’s normal to be like this.

Zahra: Do you think any of your other identities affect your feelings about your traditional clothing?

Aynaz: Well, you mentioned body size. As I said, I am tall, and when I wear this dress, for example, I see that my grandparents or older people who are more traditional really like it. They say, “You look like a real Qashqai woman.” Qashqai people tend to prefer a more robust figure because it has been like this since ancient times. They still have that mindset from their older generations. I feel like I’ve made myself a bit different, so yes, I am a very authentic Qashqai woman. This is what they say. Of course, I have this feeling, and now my nationality is Qashqai. It means that what I really am now.

Zahra: What information have you gained about traditional clothing from your interactions with others? For example, has your mother taught you about various types of clothing?

Aynaz: Well, the only thing they recommended to me was that when I wear Qashqai clothes, I should wear them properly. I don’t know if you understand what it means. It means that you should wear it with pride and joy, as if you are enjoying wearing this outfit. But yes, they surely had a few pieces of advice, like making sure the middle part of the braid is straight. If you tie your hair, it should be neatly tied, and if you don’t have a braid, it means you’re not wearing the Qashqai clothes properly. It signifies that you are not fit to wear it because you cannot wear the clothes the way you should.

Zahra: So, can I say that most of the information you have obtained has come more from your parents or grandparents who have taught you, rather than from others?

Aynaz: Yes, my parents or even my grandparents, who went to a tribal high school, they had classmates and gatherings. They often organize gatherings with their classmates and other tribe members. They always come together and wear Qashqai clothes. I’ve seen that everyone wears Qashqai clothes and dances. The only place where I saw this being promoted was there. However, in our society, not that I haven’t seen anything, but I didn’t see much promotion of our clothes. If Qashqai people themselves do it, if they promote it, then the Qashqai society will promote it, otherwise, no.

Zahra: What barriers are there to obtaining and wearing traditional dress?

Aynaz: Well, I don’t think there are obstacles to wearing our clothes in the normal state of Iranian society because, in the end, it is a common attire. Besides the head covering, which has become a bit loose nowadays, it can be worn. But it’s just a matter of breaking norms; otherwise, we don’t have any obstacles to wearing it. Even our fathers are happy to see us wear our clothes outside.

Zahra: Can you share images of you wearing different traditional dress? As many as you’d like to share, but up to 10. For each image can you share: Where you are at in the image? Why are you wearing the traditional dress in that place? Is there any special meaning you have for this space or traditional dress in the image? (See Figures 1 and 2)

Aynaz: I am in this picture at my brother’s wedding. In our wedding ceremonies and joyous celebrations, we wear our traditional clothes, and it is customary to don traditional attire for traditional dancing during wedding events. Yes, it is done to uphold our traditions, preserve the customs of our region, show respect for the hosts, and enhance the beauty of traditional women’s dance.

Zahra: Is there anything else about you, Qashqai identity, and traditional clothing that you would like to share?

Aynaz: Qashqai tradition… I wish I had some background to think about it before and prepare some things, but it was impromptu, not bad though. Regarding Qashqai, there is nothing specific that comes to my mind right now, unfortunately. But I am happy that your thesis topic is about this, and it is very valuable and beautiful for us.



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Qashqai Traditional Dress: An Oral History Project Copyright © 2024 by Zahra Falsafi and Kelly L. Reddy-Best is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.