An Afghan burqa is a garment worn by women in Afghanistan in observance of Islamic and cultural modesty standards. The garment loosely covers much of a woman's body, including her entire head and face. In many cases, the Afghan burqa is shorter in front than it is in back to permit women to lift their face veil as and when necessary, although a screen in the front of the garment gives its wearer the ability to see the world around her. Women wear additional clothing under the Afghan burqa as necessary to cover their torso and limbs. Wearing a burqa was mandated throughout Afghanistan by law during the rule of the Taliban during the 1990s, and while Afghan women are no longer legally required to wear it, many women continue to do so.
Many Muslims wish to adhere to religious and cultural standards regarding modesty in appearance and boundaries within gender interactions. As such, both men and women may choose to dress in modest clothing that covers a significant amount of their bodies. Women in particular will often wear very loose clothing as well as scarves over their heads. This way of dressing addresses concerns about personal modesty and can provide a barrier between women and men who are not closely related to one another. In traditional societies that are particularly concerned about separation between the genders, an all-enveloping garment, such as the Afghan burqa, functions as such a barrier when women leave their homes and interact with the outside world.
An Afghan burqa can be purchased in one of several different colors, though blue is very common. The garment is often decorated with embroidery, particularly around the mesh screen at the front of its face veil. The top of the burqua is designed to fit snugly around the wearer's head while the rest of the garment drapes over her body. It is possible for a woman to lift the front part of the Afghan burqa so that she can expose her face as she needs to while still enjoying a significant amount of body coverage.
During the reign of the Taliban, women wearing burqas became an international symbol of what was perceived as a repressive regime. Several experts in Afghan culture have noted, however, that while the Taliban rule made the wearing of an Afghan burqa mandatory, women in Afghanistan as well as other countries, such as Pakistan and India, have traditionally worn the burqa for generations. Since the overthrow of the Taliban, women in major Afghan cities dress less conservatively, although many women continue to wear the burqa. Outside urban areas, the Afghan burqa is still commonly worn by the female population.