Young women in Herat, Afghanistan, wearing patterned chadors, which are rare amongst younger women in Iran since the Iranian Revolution but remain common in Afghanistan and Tajikistan

A chādor (Persian, Urdu: چادر, lit.'tent'), also variously spelled in English as chadah, chad(d)ar, chader, chud(d)ah, chadur, and naturalized as /tʃʌdər/, is an outer garment or open cloak worn by many women in the Persian-influenced countries of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and to a lesser extent Tajikistan, as well as in Shia communities in Iraq, Bahrain, and Qatif in Saudi Arabia in public spaces or outdoors.

A chador is a full-body-length semicircle of fabric that is open down the front. The garment is pulled over the head, and is held closed at the front by the wearer; the chador has no hand openings, buttons, or clasps. It may also be held closed by being tucked under the wearer's arms. The word in Classical Persian could be used in reference to almost any cloth, headscarf, or even tents.[1] This definition is mostly retained in the Eastern Persian varieties Tajiki and Dari, which commonly use reflexes of chādar in reference to almost any cloth or scarf,[2][3] including loosely worn scarves that would be inappropriate to call a chador in Iranian Persian.

Before the 1978–1979 Iranian Revolution, black chadors were reserved for funerals and periods of mourning; colourful, patterned fabrics were the norm for everyday wear. Currently, the majority of Iranian women who wear the chador use the black version outside, and reserve light-coloured chadors for indoor use.

Historical background

Ancient and early Islamic times

Malek Jahan Khanom, regent of Qajar Iran in 1848

Fadwa El Guindi locates the origin of the veil in ancient Mesopotamia, where "wives and daughters of high-ranking men of the nobility had to veil".[4] The veil marked class status, and this dress code was regulated by sumptuary laws.

One of the first representation of a chador is found on Ergili sculptures and the "Satrap sarcophagus" from Persian Anatolia.[5] Bruhn/Tilke, in their 1941 A Pictorial History of Costume, do show a drawing, said to be copied from an Achaemenid relief of the 5th century BC, of an individual with their lower face hidden by a long cloth wrapped around the head.[6] Some have mistakenly claimed this to be a woman, but it is actually a Mede soldier.[7] Achaemenid women in art were almost always uncovered.[5] The earliest written record of chador can be found in Pahlavi scripts from the sixth century as a female head dress worn by Zoroastrian women.[8]

It is likely that the custom of veiling continued through the Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanian periods. Veiling was not limited to noble women but was practised also by Persian kings.[8] Upper-class Greek and Byzantine women were also secluded from the public gaze. European visitors of the 18th and 19th centuries have left pictorial records of women wearing the chador and the long white veil.

During the Islamic era, the chador retained the meaning of adornment to some extent in Iran, but over time, it took on the meaning of Islam and the Islamic hijab which was one of the concepts of Quran [9] and Islam which was considered a limitation of women.


Military commanders of the Iranian armed forces, government officials, and their wives commemorating the abolition of the veil in 1936
"Statue of a Liberated Woman" representing a woman tearing off her chador, Baku, Azerbaijan

The 20th century Pahlavi ruler Reza Shah banned the chador and all hijab during the Kashf-e hijab in 1936, as incompatible with his modernizing ambitions.[10] According to Mir-Hosseini, as cited by El Guindi, "the police were arresting women who wore the veil and forcibly removing it". This policy outraged the Twelver Shia clerics, and ordinary men and women, to whom "appearing in public without their cover was tantamount to nakedness". However, she continues, "this move was welcomed by Westernized and upperclass men and women, who saw it in liberal terms as a first step in granting women their rights".[11]

Eventually, rules of dress code were relaxed, and after Reza Shah's abdication in 1941, the compulsory element in the policy of unveiling was abandoned, though the policy remained intact throughout the Pahlavi era. According to Mir-Hosseini, 'between 1941 and 1979, wearing hejab [hijab] was no longer an offence, but it was a real hindrance to climbing the social ladder, a badge of backwardness, and a marker of class. A headscarf, let alone the chador, prejudiced the chances of advancement in work and society not only of working women, but also of men, who were increasingly expected to appear with their wives at social functions. Fashionable hotels and restaurants sometimes even refused to admit women with chador, schools and universities actively discouraged the chador, although the headscarf was tolerated. It was common to see girls from traditional families, who had to leave home with the chador, arriving at school without it and then putting it on again on the way home'.[12]

Iranian Revolution

After the Iranian Revolution, compulsory hijab were introduced, which was met with opposition from women during the International Women's Day Protests in Tehran, 1979.

In April 1980, during the Iranian Cultural Revolution, it was decided that it would be mandatory for women in government offices and educational institutions to observe the veil.[13] In 1983, a dispute regarding the veiling broke out, and public conflict was motivated by the definition of veiling and its scale (so-called "bad hijab" issue), sometimes followed even by clashes against those who were perceived to wear improper clothing.[13] Government felt obligated to deal with this situation; so, on 26 July 1984, Tehran's public prosecutor issued a statement and announced that stricter dress-code is supposed to be observed in public places such as institutions, theaters, clubs, hotels, motels, and restaurants, while in the other places, it should follow the pattern of the overwhelming majority of people.[13] Stricter veiling implies both chador and more loosely khimar-type headscarf, along with overcoat.


Women in Shiraz, Iran, 2019, wearing chadors

Before the 1978–1979 Iranian Revolution, black chadors were worn by many women and girls for different purposes. Light, printed fabrics were the norm for everyday wear. Currently, the majority of women who wear the chador reserve the usage of light-colored chadors for around the house or for prayers. Most women who still go outside in urban areas in a light colored chador are elderly women of rural backgrounds. During the reign of the Shah of Iran, such traditional clothing was largely discarded by the wealthier urban upper-class women in favor of modernity for western clothing, although women in small towns and villages continued to wear the chador. Traditionally a light coloured or printed chador was worn with a headscarf (rousari), a blouse (pirahan), and a long skirt (daaman); or else a blouse and skirt or dress over pants (shalvar), and these styles continue to be worn by many rural Iranian women, in particular by older women.

On the other hand, in Iran, the chador does not require the wearing of a veil. Inside the home, particularly for urban women, both the chador and the veil have been discarded, and there, women and teenagers wore cooler and lighter garments; while in modern times, rural women continue to wear a light-weight printed chador inside the home over their clothing during their daily activities. The chador is worn by some Iranian women, regardless of whether they are Sunni or Shia, but is considered traditional to Persian Iranians, with Iranians of other backgrounds wearing the chador or other traditional forms of attire. For example, Arab Iranian women in Western and Southern Iran retain their overhead Abaya which is similar to the overhead Abaya worn in Iraq, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

Beyond Iran

The Persian word entered South Asia, and appeared in the Hindustani language as cādar (चादर, anglicized as chaddar, chuddar and chudder).[14] However, an Indian and Pakistani cādar may more closely resemble a dupatta.[15][16] The Hindustani word can also refer to other type of sheets, such as bed sheets.[17][18] There is also a small Haredi Jewish group in which the women wear black head-to-toe cloaks similar to the chador.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Chador word origin". Etymologeek. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  2. ^ "Search Engine". Afghan Dari Dictionary. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  3. ^ "чодар | Таджикский Словарь". Tajik-Russian Dictionary. Retrieved 2022-04-02.
  4. ^ El Guindi, Fadwa (1999), Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Oxford/New York: Berg, p. 16.
  5. ^ a b CLOTHING ii. In the Median and Achaemenid periods at Encyclopædia Iranica
  6. ^ Bruhn, Wolfgang, and Tilke, Max (1955), Kostümwerk, Tübingen: Ernst Wasmuth, p. 13, plate 10.
  7. ^ "Iran mistakenly promotes hijab with ancient bas-relief of veiled men". The Observers - France 24. 2015-04-13. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  8. ^ a b ČĀDOR (2) at Encyclopædia Iranica
  9. ^ "˹O Prophet!˺ Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and guard their chastity. That is purer for them. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what they do. And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and guard their chastity, and not to reveal their adornments except what normally appears. Let them draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their ˹hidden˺ adornments except to their husbands, their fathers, their fathers-in-law, their sons, their stepsons, their brothers, their brothers' sons or sisters' sons, their fellow women, those ˹bondwomen˺ in their possession, male attendants with no desire, or children who are still unaware of women's nakedness. Let them not stomp their feet, drawing attention to their hidden adornments. Turn to Allah in repentance all together, O believers, so that you may be successful.
    — Surah An-Nur 24:30-31"
  10. ^ mshabani (10 December 2015). "More veils lift as topic loses political punch in Iran".
  11. ^ El Guindi, Fadwa (1999), Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Oxford/New York: Berg, p. 174.
  12. ^ El Guindi, Fadwa (1999), Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Oxford/New York: Berg, pp. 174–175.
  13. ^ a b c Ramezani, Reza (2010). Hijab dar Iran az Enqelab-e Eslami ta payan Jang-e Tahmili [Hijab in Iran from the Islamic Revolution to the end of the Imposed war] (Persian), Faslnamah-e Takhassusi-ye Banuvan-e Shi’ah [Quarterly Journal of Shiite Women], Qom: Muassasah-e Shi’ah Shinasi, ISSN 1735-4730
  14. ^ "Chudder". American Heritage Dictionary (in: The Free Dictionary). A cotton shawl traditionally worn in India by men and women
  15. ^ Habib, Kiran; Khan, Foqia Sadiq (2008). Women and Human Security in South Asia: The Cases of Bangladesh and Pakistan. University Press. p. 108. the woman was sent back on the horse with gifts and a chaddar / dupatta, signifying that a woman's honour has remained intact
  16. ^ Leitner, Gottlieb William (1880). A Detailed Analysis of Abdul Ghafur's Dictionary of the Terms Used by Criminal Tribes in the Panjab. Punjab Government Civil Secretariat Press. p. 5. "Chándá kar le" for "Take off the sheet or chaddar or dupatta"
  17. ^ Platts, John T. (1884). "A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English". Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. p. 416. ćādar, s.f. A sheet; a table-cloth; a covering; a coverlet; a calico mantle or wrapper (of one fold, which reaches from the head to the ankles)
  18. ^ "चादर". Collins Hindi-English Dictionary. A sheet is a large rectangular piece of cloth that you sleep on or cover yourself with in a bed.
  19. ^ "Israeli court rules Central American ultra-Orthodox sect is a 'dangerous cult'". The Times of Israel.

Further reading

  • Briant, Pierre (2002), From Cyrus to Alexander, Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns
  • Bruhn, Wolfgang, and Tilke, Max (1973), A Pictorial History of Costume, original published as Kostümwerk, 1955, Tübingen: Ernst Wasmuth
  • El Guindi, Fadwa (1999), Veil: Modesty, Privacy, and Resistance, Oxford/New York: Berg
  • Mir-Hosseini, Ziba (1996), "Stretching The Limits: A Feminist Reading of the Shari'a in Post-Khomeini Iran," in Mai Yamani (ed.), Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives, pp. 285–319. New York: New York University Press