Iraq’s worsening economic conditions have forced citizens to take jobs that they consider humiliating. Cleaning is one example, and veiling becomes a solution for some. Over the last few years, the veil has grown popular in Iraq: armed factions as well as translators and members of the security forces have worn it.
The Basra municipality signed a contract that recruited 2,000 unemployed people to clean up the streets. Most of them, particularly university graduates, have veiled themselves to hide their identity in front of their friends working in government departments.
Akram Issa, 28, is a graduate of the Faculty of Management and Economics and is working as a contractor with the municipality.
"I did not get a steady job in the government. I have a family, and I need to make ends meet. I waited impatiently for my graduation, but I only managed to find a job at the municipality. My family believes that this job is not suitable for me, but I decided to take it," he said.
"At first, I did not wear a veil, but then many of my friends passed by and recognized me," Issa added. "This made me realize that most municipal workers do not veil themselves for fear of dust or heat; they do it so that no one recognizes them. So I decided to wear the veil at work."
He continued, "When I am off-duty, I am always impeccably dressed. I hang out with friends who do not know about my job. Unless they are very close to me, people believe I work at a contracting company."
"I tell this white lie to some friends, but I'm not married and I cannot propose to a girl because then I would have to disclose my career, especially since I am a university graduate. It is only natural for me to find a girl of the same educational level," Issa said.
Beggars — especially women — are the most committed to veiling, Em Ali, 44, told Al-Hayat.
"I wear my veil from dawn till dusk, and I even try to change my voice sometimes when I approach a car full of people I know," she said. "I do not wear a veil when I visit my relatives or my neighbors, but when I go to work, I wear the veil before I reach the traffic light and start my work."
Ali burst out laughing, "My neighbor recognized me, even though I changed the tone of my voice when I was next to her. I asked her for money while she was driving a car full of her employees. Afterward, I asked her how she recognized me, and it turned out that she noticed the distinctive color of my shoes."
Policeman Ahmed Rashid wears a veil for another reason.
"I work at a checkpoint not far from where I live," he said. "I wear the veil so that no one from my area takes advantage of my presence there and asks me to let them pass without inspection."