2010 California/USA

The Shadow

The first time I experienced a strictly enforced dress code that included completely covering my head with a black scarf was very confusing.  I was 7 years old and just starting elementary school.  Normally a great time for young girls growing up, I was taken through a maze of rules and black clothing I would wear for the next two decades.  I went from this funny little girl with long hair and bangs who loved to dress up, to a frowning mess of eyebrows peering out of this sticky cotton black curtain.  Why did all of these women who helped fight and win the revolution have to endure this torture yet men did not? 

The hijab law that was enacted March 8,1979 forbid women in Iran to leave the house without being fully clothed, while wearing closed-toe shoes and full covering of the head and hair with a scarf or chador.  In a way this strange new law marked the time that I was becoming a woman with all it’s advantages and difficulties.  Looking at old photos of my girlfriends in high school, some straining to smile wearing this ridiculous garb, I wondered how we were supposed to grow up with half of our joy blacked out?

After leaving Iran in 2003, a huge relief came over me as hoped to get a break in the new world and not have to be constantly reminded of my prior black attire.  But it’s haunting memory followed me and I felt a constant need to explain my hijab history, which now was part of me.  Even now with no obligation to cover, that black wispy cotton that once was a second outfit over my real clothing is hard to discard. 

But like many women before me that have endured oppression, the light eventually shines through and gives me hope.  This image is part of a series that I worked through finding power and strength even when you are alone and in the dark.