Leila Abedi English Transcript

Interviewee: Leila Abedi

Interview date: August 19th, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 47 min 12 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Leila: Thirty-three.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Leila: Shiraz.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Leila: Yes. I was born in Shiraz, and I still live here.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Leila: housewife.

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

Leila: I have a bachelor’s degree in management. I studied at Shiraz University here in Shiraz. Now, I am pursuing my master’s degree at Shiraz University as well.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Leila: Female.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Leila: I am married.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Leila: No.

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

Leila: Well, in the past, families were very populous. Now, if I want to count, for example, my mom’s uncles and aunts because my mom and dad are cousins, it becomes quite extensive. Each of them has at least ten examples, and they all have families. So, the population becomes quite large.

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

Leila: Well, when I was a child, I remember having a lot of interactions, but now, not so much. Now, we see each other at weddings or family gatherings, but we don’t have much contact with second-degree relatives anymore. However, we still maintain connections with first-degree relatives.

Zahra: Where do they live?

Leila: They all live in Shiraz.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Leila: No.

Zahra: What is the current household income level?

Leila: I can give you an amount if you want, so you know how it is, or I can tell you the income level that is expected. If I say we are below the poverty line, it means all of us are below the poverty line.

Zahra: Do you have any religious affiliations?

Leila: A little.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Leila: It’s a kind of feeling for me. You know, the feeling of knowing another language besides Persian, having another culture—it’s very appealing to me. It’s a kind of uniqueness, having another authenticity, having something different. Having a different culture is fascinating to me.

Zahra: Have there been times when you felt more or less Qashqai than others?

Leila: Yes, when I was a child, I didn’t like it. I didn’t like the clothes, the music, or the local dances. I was always nervous about going to weddings. However, as I grew older, my interest in it increased.

Zahra: Have you ever felt negatively or positively about being Qashqai?

Leila: Feelings…? Why did I have them? I had both positive and negative feelings. Positive feelings are because, in the end, I know another language, and there are certain customs and specific cultures that I love. I love their special clothing, their special ceremonies; I really love them. But yes, sometimes I’ve had negative feelings, not because of being Qashqai but because of being mixed. Sometimes I’ve seen feedback from my friends. In Iranian society, some people have very good behavior, but sometimes they don’t have a good view of Turks and Lurs. These attitudes have upset me at times. Or, for example, because the culture of Turks is a bit more conservative, sometimes I’m a bit bothered by the traditional attitudes in Turkish and Lur culture that still exist. Why don’t we have the freedom that those who don’t have this culture have?

Zahra: Tell me about your experiences with the Qashqai community. How are you involved?

Leila: Well, dear, from the moment you come into this world, when your parents are members of this community, you become a member too, and you grow up with its culture. I can also tell you that compared to before, it has become much less colorful. For example, girls used to face a lot of pressure if they didn’t wear Qashqai clothes at their wedding ceremonies, but now it has become less strict. It has become a bit more lenient in terms of clothing, style, and even how they do their hair. These have returned a bit of freedom, and some new things have been added. Even in terms of music, the style of their music was different before. If that style had remained, the new generation wouldn’t listen to it at all. Now, new singers have come who have brought new songs suitable for today’s taste, and this has allowed this culture to stay, but in a different way from the past. It is quite different now. Yes, we still wear the clothes in our weddings, and we have those traditions, but due to our interactions, these have adapted to our coming and going. These traditions are implemented, but compared to the past, I can say they have become weaker.

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

Leila: If I want to name them, there’s a type of shirt, a skirt, aside from them, they wear a four-cornered headpiece, a four-cornered headpiece, and then a headscarf that they tie on their heads. There’s also a hat that they wear underneath the four-cornered headpiece to hold it, and most of the time, they use a pin-like fastener to secure the four-cornered headpiece. In the past, it was customary for women to use gold, and for girls, it was a silver pin. It was one of the signs distinguishing between girls and married women. Now, these things have become less prominent. There used to be a necklace, I can’t remember its name right now, let me think for a moment. Yes, that necklace was called “Malho,” woven from a plant, and it had a very nice fragrance. In the past, it was such that when someone got married, married women would throw it, and those who were single wouldn’t. It was a symbol of power among women, indicating whether they were married or not. Now, I say these things have faded away. A short dress can be worn over the main dress, which is long and covers up to the ankles. It’s the main dress, and on it, a small dress we call “Arkhaloq” is worn, more for beauty and warmth in the cold season. I mentioned the four-cornered headpiece. I also mentioned the headscarf, which we call “Yaghloogh.” Something that was very common in the past and a lot of gold was used for women. It was kind of a symbol of power among women to show their status. I don’t know, but now it’s gone, you don’t see anyone throwing gold around. At most, a necklace that is sometimes so small that you don’t see it, but in the past, there were such large jewelry pieces that were clearly visible from a distance.

Zahra: The necklace you mentioned, Malho, that someone would wear if they were married or unmarried, did they wear it or not?

Leila: Yes, yes, Malho. In a way, since they got married and wore Qashqai clothes at their wedding, they would throw it until they were married, especially in the early years of marriage. Eventually, when someone has been married for eight years and has children, they might not wear it anymore. But in the early years of marriage, everyone throws it, and this culture still exists. A girl doesn’t throw Malho if she is married.

Zahra: What is the material of the clothes?

Leila: Our clothes are made of all kinds of fabrics. We buy our fabrics from the Vakil Bazaar or the bazaar in the city of Firoozabad. Because Firoozabad is a city with a large Turkic population and brings very good fabrics. The material is satin, velvet, silk—every kind of fabric. It depends on what is fashionable and people’s tastes.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Leila: Generally, we wear bright colors, contrary to formal dresses where dark colors might look very chic. In local clothes, bright colors show themselves. Yellow, red, green, orange—happy colors. If you go to, let’s say, a formal event, and you buy, for example, a gray dress, it’s not as eye-catching, doesn’t show itself as much, doesn’t look as beautiful. The new generation tends to like more muted colors, but still, mostly, I can say 99% are original and bright colors at wedding ceremonies.

Zahra: What jewelry do you wear?

Leila: In the past, jewelry was only gold, and only for women. Girls didn’t use gold. Now, in addition to the necklace I mentioned, gold is still used, especially for women. Due to the changes that have occurred in culture and such, now, costume jewelry is also widely used. In the past, if someone used costume jewelry, it wasn’t seen very well, especially if they were married. If, instead of gold, someone used costume jewelry, they would go in a sneaky way so that no one would notice. It wasn’t a culture that necessarily had to be gold. Maybe this person likes costume jewelry, perhaps it looks beautiful, this wasn’t there. Now, why has this happened here, but still, among singles, mostly among singles, married people mostly prefer gold.

Zahra: Where do you get these clothes or jewelry?

Leila: The clothes I mentioned, you can find them in Shiraz at Vakil Bazaar. Previously, many of its shops were for fabrics, but unfortunately, due to economic conditions, they’ve changed the use of a small section of Vakil Bazaar and Haji Bazaar to provide fabrics for nomadic clothing, and the Firoozabad Bazaar. As for jewelry, both costume jewelry and gold can be purchased anywhere.

Zahra: Do you make them yourself?

Leila: Gold cannot be made at home; it needs to be purchased. Jewelry and such can be made by those who know how and have the capital. In my vicinity, for example, our relatives used to do this; yes, they used to make jewelry, meaning costume jewelry, and it was very beautiful. As for clothes, many people can sew them themselves; it’s not difficult. Sewing Qashqai clothes is not hard, especially in the past when they used to make them very simple. For example, my mother and aunts used to sew their own clothes. Previously, you would see that the sleeves of the clothes were very simple, but now they make them a bit wide; it opens suddenly at the wrist. This requires the seamstress to have experience and be aware of current fashion trends. Collars used to have a certain shape, but now when you go for a wedding dress, the tailor says it’s not in fashion to have this type of collar. Nowadays, they mostly give it to those who have the skill.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Leila: Yes.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Leila: Jewelry, which used to be only gold, well, if God forbid something happened, it would be passed from mother to daughter, but for clothes, because fashion is constantly changing, it’s hard to say that it’s usable from mother to daughter. But why is it still used, especially now? In shirts, it’s very rare for a mother and daughter to be the same size, but in the skirt part, it’s very easy to share clothes. Yes, it happens.

Zahra: Do you buy them from a store?

Leila: Yes for fabrics, but not for clothes. Yes for jewelry. I mean, we don’t buy ready-made clothes.

Zahra: Why do you get them from the places you mentioned?

Leila: Well, dear, I mentioned that jewelry is gold, and gold is something that someone cannot produce themselves; they have to buy it from outside. Other jewelry that is now used, that is also an art that, again, if someone knows, they can make it themselves. Nowadays, it’s like an art that everyone can have. Well, of course, we have to buy them from outside. As for the fabric, well, it’s not something that a person can make at home either; we have to buy it from outside and give it to someone to sew.

Zahra: What does traditional clothing mean to you?

Leila: Having a specific culture, knowing a different language, being distinctive, and sometimes authenticity.

Zahra: Have these meanings changed throughout your life?

Leila: Yes, sometimes it has been less vibrant for me. When I was a child, it became more colorful at times and sometimes some of its cultures were cast into doubt, some of the feelings I had about whether it was right or wrong.

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

Leila: Yes. When you see these clothes, for example, at a wedding, the feeling it gives you is that we are all the same culture, we wear the same clothes, speak the same language, and we are going to have a very good night. But when you see, for example, a lady wearing the same local dress going to the doctor, the feeling it gives you is not the same as the good feeling at a wedding. I don’t know, maybe it’s because of reasons from my childhood, for example, those who were old at that time, they used to wear such clothes and go to the doctor. For example, my grandmother used to wear local clothes back then and went to the doctor. It’s stuck in my mind. But, for example, some time ago, I went to the doctor, and a lady who was not old came, maybe in her fifties, wearing traditional clothes. In that moment, I said, “Oh, she’s Turkish,” and I felt like, why did she come with this dress? It means a conflicting feeling to me, contradictory to a feeling of happiness, a feeling of embarrassment. Why are they wearing these clothes? There’s no place for Turkish clothes here; it’s ugly. Now, it’s not right; people might say, “This is Turkish, why is she dressed like this?” It gives me negative feelings.

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

Leila: Yes, yes. You see, when you go to weddings of different tribes, new cultures are combined with old ones, and I say those biases and constraints have changed a bit. But in some tribes, you see that traditional essence has remained more, and it’s perfectly evident in their talks and the way they wear clothes and dance because that traditional style has been preserved. Now, in some tribes, you see no. For example, our shirts had to be long from ancient times; then you see that they come and make the shirt a bit lower than the knee, which shows a change. But in some tribes, when you see, you don’t see anything like that. It shows their authenticity. For example, the girls, I said, “Mikhak and Malo,” some tribes throw them. You see that their traditional state is changing in some tribes. In some tribes, you see that they stick more to that culture, but because cultures are changing a bit, sometimes girls also throw Mikhak and Malo. In some tribes, where they keep their culture more traditionally, you don’t see anything like that. Or you don’t see short iron collars in them.

Zahra: Does getting it from a specific place make it more authentic?

Leila: I don’t know because I always bought it from Vakil Bazaar, I don’t have experience in this, but I don’t think so. I’ve seen that they are very sensitive about having better fabrics, and they go to places where the number of their language speakers is higher. For example, someone who is more sensitive to the fabric goes to Firoozabad to buy.

Zahra: Does using different materials or having someone specific make the clothes more authentic?

Leila: Well, when a tailor sews the clothes well, it shows more of that authenticity. If the tailor, for example, lacks skill, they will make the clothes very tight for you, making it very form-fitting for you. One of the cultures of Turks is that their clothes are not form-fitting, and this is changing a bit nowadays, but still, the clothes are not form-fitting, and when a tailor makes it form-fitting, it seems like they are distancing themselves from the Turkish culture.

Zahra: If you wear the clothes in different spaces, does it make it more authentic?

Leila: Yes, I think because, for example, if you see someone with a Turkish dress at a festival, it gives them a higher value than, for example, seeing a lady sitting with nomadic clothes at the doctor’s office. This changes the view significantly.

Zahra: Is there any part of “traditional” styles for any reason that you don’t wear?

Leila: No, local clothes, I mean, the same style that it has left it, we wear the same style. Nothing has been added or taken away from it; we neither add anything nor remove anything. The only difference it has made is that I don’t like my clothes to be too simple. All my clothes have the style of Khorm Sultan, and this may be for others that it changes the frame of their clothes a bit.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings or attitude towards traditional clothes?

Leila: The attitude is always positive. A beautiful dress, a cheerful color, a dress worn comfortably where you feel very good.

Zahra: How do you describe your feelings when wearing traditional clothes? For example, during the creation of handicrafts?

Leila: For example, sometimes, when our experience was less, we only thought about the beauty of the fabric, and the fabric was heavy. After all, for your skirt, you need at least five and a half meters of fabric, and then you see that you have at least three more skirts under it that you wear, which keeps that puffiness of the skirt. So, it became a very heavy dress, and sometimes I was bothered by this heaviness. Even in wearing it, I was bothered by it. But eventually, when you wear it, now that difficulty of wearing it, putting it on your back, it’s worth it. It feels very good because I say it’s worn, and it’s completely comfortable. It also has very cheerful colors, and after that, the feeling is very good.

Zahra: Does any of your other identities affect your feelings about your traditional clothing?

Leila: Yes, it does. You see, if I say, for example, my feelings about wearing traditional clothes at weddings, well, I really love it. I love it because, you know, the attire for weddings is very elegant. It’s not like local clothing; I really like that. But in other places, if I want to wear this outfit, my feelings surely change. Now, you mentioned ethnicity, race, language, and stuff. The only thing that has affected my feelings about traditional clothing so far has been the size. When you gain weight, the local clothes don’t look as good. It’s like you become a rectangle with a dress on. So, yeah, sometimes I think it would be better to stick to formal dresses, much better. But again, sometimes I say it would be better not to wear a coat at all because it takes away the beauty. Even if you buy the best fabric, when you don’t have a good figure, it doesn’t show, and it doesn’t look good on your body; it gives you a bad feeling.

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

Leila: Well, honestly, there hasn’t been any formal education, to be honest. Whatever it was, it was observation and experience. There was no specific talk. Yes, for example, with our culture, there were talks, like when we wanted to dye our hair, they would say, “No, it’s not in our culture.” Or, I remember once there was a wedding, and I didn’t know if I should take off my aunt’s necklace; I wanted to put it around my neck. They didn’t let me; they said, “You haven’t gotten married; you can’t wear it.” Regarding clothing, there hasn’t been much talk; it was more of an experiential thing. For example, we would go to weddings, see the dresses, and hear comments like, “This bride’s dress is short,” or “This one is a bit tight,” or “This one’s skirt is short, and the top is loose.” They used to show what the frames of the dresses were like, and now they are somewhat dissatisfied with the changes.

Zahra: What kind of messages do you think society promotes about traditional clothing? How do you relate to those messages?

Leila: I haven’t seen any banner messages, but sometimes there have been events like festivals or programs where various groups came, maybe organized by the municipality. They played local instruments, showcasing local culture. I personally didn’t like it because they changed the clothes. For example, we wear a specific type of headscarf, and some people put something on it like a hat or a scarf; they completely hide this hair, which we call “charghad,” saying it’s dirty. They don’t have any dirt; they just changed it. I don’t like it at all. I prefer to keep this hair under the headscarf, not with a hat or something. It’s censorship; you have to control certain things and emotions here.

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

Leila: Right now, the financial cost is a significant obstacle because it’s getting extremely expensive. As I mentioned, just for a skirt of five and a half meters, at least, you need fabric. For its skirt, you need satin, for its coat, if you want to do the embroidery yourself, you have to buy the sequins, and if you want to buy it ready-made, a weak coat is already six or seven hundred thousand tomans. A headscarf, or what we call “yaqloogh,” is very expensive, too. It’s getting really hard to obtain traditional clothes due to financial aspects.

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, 2, and 3)

Leila: All the pictures I have are from weddings; they are traditional bridal dresses. In the past, those who wore Turkish clothes at home also wore them at weddings, but in weddings, they look happier, and at home, it’s simpler. My aunt wore completely traditional clothes until the end of her life. My grandmother did the same. In recent years, due to moving and difficulty in mobility, they had to change their clothes forcibly, but I am sending you some pictures from weddings. I am here at weddings because the dominant culture in these ceremonies is Turkish, so you need to be careful about your behavior. For example, my brother-in-law is not Turkish, but because he is interested in Turkish culture, in that city, you can shout and sing with any song you want and dance however you like. Be yourself. But in local clothes and local weddings, where they invite a large number of people, and you may see people you rarely see, at least you know them by name. You feel that you don’t have the freedom of action because of this; you are a bit censored here. You have to control some of your actions and emotions here.

Three women attending a wedding. They are sitting and facing the camera, each with a slight smile. They are inside a tent made of fabric where the wedding events took place. They are each wearing a full-length skirt, a light-weight, fitted top, and their ensembles have sequins attached to them in various geometric and floral patterns.
Figure 1. Leila Abedi and her relatives, at a wedding

Leila: This is my uncle’s wedding. The feeling of having a special culture, wearing a unique dress, knowing another language, and having special dances and customs. In all our weddings, we wear local dress unless the bride and groom are not Turkish.


Group of 9 people posing for the camera. There are 7 people standing in a line and then 2 people kneeling in the front row. The 7 women in the photo are all wearing floor-length skirts, a light-weight shawl of varying colors. The two men pictured are wearing button-down shirts with pants.
Figure 2. Leila Abedi and her relatives, her uncle’s wedding
Picture of a woman from head to toe. She is wearing a beaded, floor-length skirt and a light-weight shawl. She is looking at the camera.
Figure 3. Leila Abedi, her uncle’s wedding


Zahra: Does being in this place or wearing traditional clothing have any special meanings for you?

Leila: Finally, when you wear this dress, it means you are going to a wedding dominated by Turkish culture. So, you need to be careful about your behavior. For example, my brother-in-law is not Turkish, but because he is interested in Turkish culture, he is not Turkish, but he likes Turkish culture. In that city, you can shout and sing with any song you want, scream, dance however you like; be yourself. But in local clothes and local weddings, where they invite a large number of people, and you may see people you rarely see, at least you know them by name. You feel that you don’t have the freedom of action because of this; you are a bit censored here. You have to control some of your actions and emotions here.

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

Leila: Well, sometimes, on the whole, my feeling towards it is good. Now, I accept their cultures more. Either it seems right to me, or I grew up with them, and it is a part of my life. However, sometimes this influence they have on us, the culture and the framework in my mind, I can’t break it. For example, if you assume that someone wants to get a divorce, they can’t live independently; they have to go back to their father’s house. It means they don’t have a good reputation if they want to live independently. I don’t like this at all. Or, for example, marriages, Turks don’t like girlfriends and boyfriends, but this view is still there. Traditional marriage is not much discussed, but this view still exists. I don’t like these kinds of thoughts, and I can’t change it myself because I also grew up with this culture. Unfortunately, I can’t change it; I try hard, but I can’t.


Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License

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.