Nazanin Abedi English Transcript

Interviewee: Nazanin Abedi

Interview date: August 19th, 2023

Interviewer: Zahra Falsafi

Where: Google meet

Length: 35 min 30 sec


Zahra: How old are you?

Nazanin: I am thirty-five years old.

Zahra: Where do you currently live?

Nazanin: Shiraz, Iran.

Zahra: Have you always lived here?

Nazanin: Yes, I have always been here.

Zahra: What do you do for a living?

Nazanin: I have a bachelor’s degree in law, but I am currently pursuing my master’s and Ph.D. in psychology. In fact, I am a clinical psychologist.

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

Nazanin: I am currently a fifth-term Ph.D. student at Shiraz Open University.

Zahra: What is your gender?

Nazanin: I am a woman.

Zahra: Are you in a relationship?

Nazanin: No.

Zahra: Do you have children?

Nazanin: No.

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

Nazanin: Due to the fact that both my paternal and maternal families had ten children each, my second-degree relatives, including cousins from both sides, are quite numerous. Each of these ten siblings has, on average, 3-4 children, which has significantly increased the size of the family. This pattern continues with previous generations, making our extended family quite large and almost like a big tribe.

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

Nazanin: Very close.

Zahra: Where do they live?

Nazanin: All of them are in Shiraz.

Zahra: Do you have any physical disabilities?

Nazanin: No.

Zahra: What is your current household income level?

Nazanin: On average, considering the economic conditions in Iran, it is medium to medium-low.

Zahra: Do you have religious affiliations?

Nazanin: I’m not sure how to interpret dependence, but I have religious beliefs.

Zahra: Are your religious beliefs related to Islam?

Nazanin: Not only Islam. I accept all religions, and I consider myself a Muslim.

Zahra: What does being Qashqai mean to you?

Nazanin: Being Qashqai, for me, signifies a sense of solidarity. It seems that this culture places more emphasis on relationships, whether they are with siblings of different degrees, including first, second, or even third and fourth degrees. Even in today’s world, where many relationships have become rare, family relationships within tribes still hold significance. Being part of a Qashqai group involves adhering to certain rules, but it goes beyond that; it’s about mutual interests within the group and being a member of that community rather than just adhering to rules.

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

Nazanin: Yes. Due to the fact that my father and my paternal grandfather spoke Persian, a part of our culture is mixed with the Persians. Comparatively, those who are purely Turkic feel more authentic. I feel that my level of being Qashqai is lower, and my density is less compared to them.

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

Nazanin: It has always been positive.

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

Nazanin: I enjoy the fact that, in both good and bad times, the sense of solidarity within the Qashqai tribe remains high. When something happens, whether it’s good or bad, the community is there for you. For example, when someone passes away, people who you might only see once a year come to support you on difficult days. Even in normal circumstances, although these relationships are not as vivid, they are still stronger compared to relationships with other groups. However, when times get tough, these relationships become even more pronounced. On the other hand, due to the cultural background we had in Iran, considering the conditions you are aware of, I’ll give an example. Marriages and weddings usually aim to keep the Qashqai community separate. Unless there’s a way to bypass the government, they try to find examples that allow them to stay separate. However, even the government accepts the Qashqai way, including wearing Qashqai clothes, even though it contradicts the strict Islamic dress code. Despite the fact that the government accepts it, and we grew up in mixed ceremonies, it helped us not to view everything through a gender lens, not to emphasize the distinctions between men and women so much. We grew up with people who are part of the same tribe.

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

Nazanin: Let’s start with the head. We wear a headscarf, a delicate and thin square-shaped cloth. It is adorned with designs using embroidery, needlework, and similar techniques. There is also a headband around the head. The dress and skirt have their own set of rules, a specific color combination, and certain details that must be observed. The outfit follows a complete hijab, covering everything except the neck, as the sleeves extend to the wrists, and the skirt fully covers the legs. The interesting part is that, in today’s context, these clothes often feature vibrant colors. Qashqais, or as you say, Turkic people, and other groups that still maintain their tribal identity, prefer lively and bright colors in their clothing. However, those from more modern or urban backgrounds tend to lean towards darker colors, which are considered more chic or classy. One of the appealing aspects of our clothes is the vibrant color palette. One of the most meaningful accessories is the necklace, which indicates whether someone is single or married. This necklace serves a similar purpose to a wedding ring in other cultures. When attending weddings, you can tell someone’s marital status by looking at their necklace, which is made of beads, rings, and has a floral design with a pleasant fragrance. If the necklace is worn, it means the person is married or engaged; otherwise, they are single. Other accessories include a brooch under the throat that holds the headscarf in place. In the past, this was more exclusive to women, but now it has become a general accessory for anyone who likes to wear it. Earrings, bracelets, and other typical accessories are also used. The only difference is that no jewelry is worn on the feet.

Zahra: What are the materials of the garments?

Nazanin: I’m not well-versed in fabric types. You might want to ask someone else about that. The crucial aspect is that the clothes are cool and usually double-layered. Sometimes, they are made of velvet or satin, depending on the style and personal preference. Unfortunately, I don’t have detailed information about fabric types.

Zahra: What colors do you wear?

Nazanin: All colors are worn; no color is excluded. However, brighter colors are more commonly worn, including combinations of red, yellow, orange, green, and blue. Younger individuals tend to wear brighter and more cheerful colors, while older individuals tend to gravitate towards darker tones. For example, elderly women often wear brown, dark blue, or dark green. It seems that there is an unwritten rule that after a certain age, individuals refrain from wearing bright and lively colors.

Zahra: What jewelry do you wear?

Nazanin: There are several pieces of jewelry. One is a headpiece that connects the headscarf and the square-shaped cloth. There is also a necklace worn on the neck. Necklaces worn by girls cannot be removed, but necklaces worn by married women can be removed. The necklace includes a combination of beads, rings, and a floral design, and it also has a pleasant fragrance. There are also bracelets, rings, and other typical accessories.

Zahra: Where do you get these garments or accessories?

Nazanin: There is a collection of shops that offer this style of clothing and accessories. The primary shops are located in the Vakil Bazaar in Shiraz. Additionally, you can find them in other places such as the Saadi Cinema in the Ahmadieh area. There are various places where you can find these items, each having its own distinct cultural atmosphere, and Vakil Bazaar is a prominent location.

Zahra: Do you make them?

Nazanin: No, they are much more delicately crafted than what we can achieve. Except for the necklace that indicates whether someone is married or single, some individuals, like friends, can make it themselves.

Zahra: How about the clothes?

Nazanin: They are made by those who have the skill for it.

Zahra: Do others make them for you?

Nazanin: Yes, absolutely. Some individuals specialize in making these items. They take orders from other Qashqai people, prepare them, and either sew the clothes or create the accessories. In some cases, they even have the clothes ready-made, and people can rent them for an event or a week. If someone cannot afford the cost of owning such clothes, which are considered expensive, they can rent them, and this renting culture has become widespread.

Zahra: Were they handed down to you?

Nazanin: Approximately 50-60% of them are passed down from generation to generation. However, one of the challenges is the significant number of children in Qashqai families. The inheritance is divided among multiple daughters or offspring, and sometimes it doesn’t work out smoothly. While some items may be passed down directly, others may not, especially when there is a high number of daughters. It often leads to more straightforward distribution within the next generation.

Zahra: Do you buy them from a store?

Nazanin: It’s not just one store; it’s a collection of shops offering this type of fabric or accessory. You can find them in various shops, such as in the Vakil Bazaar. The reason for choosing these places is the diversity and being up-to-date. When you go there, you can see the latest fabrics and accessories available. The high variety allows you to choose something suitable within your budget.

Zahra: Why do you choose to buy them from the places you mentioned?

Nazanin: There is a high level of diversity, and being up-to-date is essential. When you go there, you can discover the newest fabrics and accessories. The wide variety of options allows you to choose something within your budget and preferences.

Zahra: What meanings do the traditional dress have for you?

Nazanin: Traditional clothing, for me, is a reminder of unity, a reminder of belonging to a specific group. It signifies camaraderie and belonging to a particular community.

Zahra: Have these meanings changed over your lifetime?

Nazanin: They have become more vivid, more beautiful in my mind. From my perspective, they have become more lovable.

Zahra: Do the meanings of the different traditional dress change when you are in different spaces or locations?

Nazanin: Unfortunately, sometimes, the view of other societies towards these clothes is not favorable. For example, when you see a lady on the street wearing the same clothes that, in your community, are only worn on special occasions, it bothers me. Some people still live their everyday lives wearing these clothes, especially older individuals, those who are part of tribes, or those who still live a traditional lifestyle. Even people with good financial status in the best parts of Shiraz may adhere to this style. However, it upsets me to see society viewing this as a backward or outdated practice.

Zahra: Do you think that some traditional dress is more authentic than others? Why?

Nazanin: No, I don’t think some are more authentic. Maybe some have been modified recently, like in some traditional clothes, sleeves have been altered, or the skirt model has changed. These changes, from their perspective, are an attempt to modernize them a bit. I didn’t like these changes much because they compromise the decency of the clothing. To me, these clothes were beautiful because they were noble, and when you try to bring something from another culture into it, you’re erasing its authenticity. It becomes like blindly imitating something even worse without any improvement.

Zahra: But those who are genuinely Qashqai wouldn’t buy or wear clothes with those changes, right?

Nazanin: They wouldn’t buy, wear, or approve of them.

Zahra: I think this mostly happens in a community where the person is Persian-speaking rather than being a genuine Qashqai, right?

Nazanin: Yes, it’s a general perception. They don’t recognize the clothing so precisely that they can tell it’s not authentic. The clothing has been altered, just like the hairstyle. In Qashqai clothing, the hairstyle is such that if you see a Qashqai woman, you can easily recognize that she’s Qashqai, but even the hairstyle can be recognized if it’s not Qashqai. Even in their way of doing makeup, you can tell that they’ve tried to imitate but aren’t authentic. It lacks that originality.

Zahra: Does where you get it from make it more authentic?

Nazanin: Well, it doesn’t necessarily make it more authentic; it depends on the individual. If the person selling it claims it to be authentic, and I, as someone who considers them an authentic Qashqai, can accept it when they introduce it to me as an authentic piece. But if, for example, the fabric, which is considered the most authentic in the bazaar, isn’t well-received by me or doesn’t feel like it belongs to the Qashqai culture, even if it’s in the center of all Qashqai clothing, it won’t make it more authentic for me.

Zahra: Do different materials or who makes it make it more authentic?

Nazanin: No, unless those individuals, no, let me be firm on this. If those individuals themselves are Qashqai, yes, they might change it. For example, some Qashqai tribes, at the top of the hierarchy, make changes to their clothing, which we all accept as the authentic Qashqai. These changes are more acceptable and may become commonplace within that tribe.

Zahra: Is it more authentic if you wear it in different spaces?

Nazanin: It depends. It’s not possible to wear it everywhere, and wearing it everywhere doesn’t make it more authentic. Sometimes, wearing it in a specific place where it is recognized enhances its authenticity. When the clothing is recognized in a place where it has a cultural impact, it’s better, and people may appreciate it more.

Zahra: Do you not wear any parts of the “traditional” styles for any reason?

Nazanin: Yes, for example, there is a part like a vest or jacket. Due to its high cost, they’ve mostly eliminated it, even though it’s a tiny piece of fabric, and it’s quite expensive. It is almost eliminated.

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

Nazanin: I feel good wearing this clothing. It feels like there’s a collective spirit, like it’s still alive. As long as it’s worn, it means it’s still honoring this culture. If one day we wear it less, it means we’re less proud of being Qashqai.

Zahra: How would you describe your feelings when wearing traditional dress? For example, while making handicrafts?

Nazanin: Well, personally, I only felt like a girl and a feminine sense when I was engaged with these clothes, meaning perhaps the girly part of me has always been associated with these traditional clothes. It has always been a symbol for me of good events, positive feelings, and, in fact, a lot of pink.

Zahra: Do any of your other identities influence how you feel about your traditional dress?

Nazanin: Well, during a certain period, I only had an issue with the headscarf part. In our Islamic tradition, we consider the headscarf to cover the face, while keeping the neck and hair exposed. Now, let me tell you that during that time, the religious authority I followed came and said that all traditional clothes and any part of clothing that is considered traditional is acceptable, like finding a solution for covering the neck. At that time, due to that religious decree, I was fine with it. Later, when many of my religious views changed, my perspective on this matter also changed significantly. It’s not like even if you tell me now that there were no conflicts, no such religious decree, and that it was genuinely against Islamic principles, it wouldn’t have mattered to me because I felt that this clothing is so noble, and there are so many positive events and good feelings associated with it that it can cover up a negative aspect or a slight contradiction with my beliefs. This has happened a lot, like fifteen years ago when we participated in Qashqai ceremonies. We saw a group who, instead of wearing the traditional headscarf, tied it around their heads to cover their face completely. It seemed like they were trying to make an effort to enhance the beauty of the clothing. Now they are abandoning this effort.

Zahra: What information have you learned about traditional dress from your interactions with others (for example, did your mother teach you about the different garments)?

Nazanin: Yes, it seems like some teachings have been passed down from generation to generation, from how to wear it to what color combinations work well together and what kind of fabric is better for different skin tones. A part of my interaction is with Qashqai women, who discuss what looks better and more beautiful. Another part is with non-Qashqai people who are not familiar with these clothes. I have always seen their perspective as almost positive. When I sit down and talk to someone, I always have a positive feeling about their clothing, both in terms of its beauty, the reality of covering, and their astonishment at its high cost because, for example, for us, it’s normal to wear it multiple times in various ceremonies, but for them, it’s a one-time expensive outfit.

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

Nazanin: In my opinion, Iranian society is not actively promoting traditional clothing; it just doesn’t interfere with it. It doesn’t make any effort to keep it alive. Anything related to authenticity, anything related to the antiquity of a cultural issue, as much as possible, is suffocated. No culture, no subculture, is kept alive directly by the people who have preserved that culture, unless the government has never valued it.

Zahra: Well, since the government has never done anything, you have had no connection with these messages, right?

Nazanin: No. I say if I received negative messages, I didn’t get positive messages.

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

Nazanin: The main obstacle is the economic issue because these clothes are expensive. Secondly, you can only wear them in specific places and special ceremonies. You buy an outfit by giving your one-month salary, and you may wear it only once or twice a year. Another issue is that wearing repeated clothing is not common in this culture. If you buy an outfit and skillfully modify it, you might wear it two or three times, but then you are forced to make a change. For example, you might change the color combination to keep it fresh, and despite being expensive, it is not worn much.

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)

Nazanin: Traditional clothing is only worn at weddings. I’ll send you as many pictures as you want, and they are all of brides at engagement, wedding, and henna ceremonies. So, it has only been worn for wedding-related events. If you want pictures, I’ll send them, and as for the meaning, it’s the same as I emphasized, embracing femininity plus solidarity.

We only wear traditional costumes at weddings, and these two photos are from two different weddings that were close family events. In one of the pictures, I am on the way, sitting in the car and heading to the venue. The second picture was taken right in the wedding garden. The reason why we wear these costumes at the ceremony is because it’s our tradition; during wedding ceremonies, people wear local, tribal, or Qashqai costumes. For us, it symbolizes unity and togetherness, and for me, it also signifies the essence of being a daughter.


Zahra: Is there anything else that would be important to share about you, Qashqai identity, and traditional dress?

Nazanin: This clothing was originally for both men and women. Men had their own set of clothes, and women had their specific clothing. Now, we see that men’s clothing has almost disappeared; only women’s clothing remains. At most, in a gathering of two thousand people, one or two men may wear traditional clothing. The reason for eliminating men’s clothing was that they were no longer proud of it. Women can still feel good about these clothes because if we continue with this style, one day it might disappear for women as well.<b>


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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.