AP PHOTOS: A look from the niqab, worn by some Muslim women

May 18, 2015, 1:24 AM
This Thursday, April 9, 2015 photo shows a man leading tourists riding horses at the historical sit...
This Thursday, April 9, 2015 photo shows a man leading tourists riding horses at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. This photo was shot through the lowered veil of a niqab, which is worn by some conservative Muslim women. The cloth allows women to follow a strict interpretation of their religious beliefs by preventing others from seeing their faces. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)
(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

CAIRO (AP) — Across the Middle East and elsewhere, some conservative Muslim women only look out at the world around them from behind the niqab.

For most, the niqab is a choice. They do so out of their own interpretation of the Quran and the hadith, a collection of traditions and anecdotes about the Prophet Muhammad, believing that a woman’s body should be covered out of modesty.

As a photographer for The Associated Press, I travel across the Middle East and often see women wearing the niqab. Back home in Lebanon, how a woman dresses remains a personal choice, as some wear bikinis out to the beach, while other Muslims wear head scarves or the niqab.

But with the rise of the extremist Islamic State group in neighboring Syria and Iraq, the militants have forced women in areas under their control to wear the niqab. Penalties for disobeying them can be incredibly harsh — even death.

That means those women now see the world differently than they did before. A niqab is a veil that entirely covers the face or only has a small, slit-like opening for the eyes, changing the way a woman wearing one views life around her. Women also have to lift them up slightly to be able to eat or drink anything.

In my travels, I decided to begin shooting images through a full niqab to offer a glimpse of what it must be like to look through them. In my hometown of Beirut, I shot pictures of its famous corniche that way, the bright colors of the Mediterranean dimmed through it. The same happened at the Giza pyramids in Egypt, where a sunny blue sky grew dark.

Despite that, some women say they welcome the anonymity and protection from harassment the niqab offers.

Here are a series of AP photographs I shot of life viewed through the niqab across the Middle East.

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Follow AP photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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AP PHOTOS: A look from the niqab, worn by some Muslim women