Why Women In Iran Are Throwing Off Hijab Scarves In Defiance Of Their Government

Activism, Culture, Free Speech, Government, Religion, The State

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For more than a week now, women in Iran have been engaged in open criminal activity. What was their crime, you ask? The Iranian women have been speaking out against their Vilyat-i-Faqih religious government’s mandatory hair-covering. They have been posting Facebook pictures of themselves with uncovered heads and flowing hair.

Throughout social media, this revolutionary act – simple as it might be – is, according to many of the Muslim women engaged in the act of rebellion “about freedom.”

One women explains “Islam is not about the government telling you what to do. The Qur’an tells us ‘there is to be no compulsion in religion’ and yet here the government is trying to force us to cover our hair!”

Another woman asked about her participation in the online act of rebellion added that “the Qur’an never actually says we must cover our hair, this came in later hadith. The Qur’an only tells us ‘cover your breasts’. Why does the government think they can force us to do whatever they interpret Islam to be?”

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the Islamic Republic mandated hijab covering for all woman, and instituted morality police enforce these rules.

In urban areas of Iran prior to the Revolution, many Muslim women did not cover their hair, and not all Muslim women consider it a religious obligation, whether in Iran or in other countries. In spite of this, and in spite of the pogient commentary offered by women we spoke to about it, punishment for going out in public bare-headed in Iran includes imprisonment or even public beating. How’s that for “no compulsion”?

Journalist Masih Alinejad sparked the online rebellion to this compulsion by providing a place for the women of Iran to speak out and declare their personal autonomy about hijab with the Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom.”

Since it was set up on May 5, Alinejad has received a myriad of picturess from women demonstrating their secret freedom to leave their hair uncovered, while still practicing Islam.

Alinejad also participated in this, posting a picture of herself with her hair uncovered and driving, saying “I bet a lot of women have such photos of their secret freedom- this is me on the way North.”

She told the BBC, about those taking part in the online rebellion, “These are not women activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts.”

She insists, however, that the page is apolitical and is a space for Iranian women to come together in solidarity.

One woman wrote, “I just want to have the right to CHOOSE! Maybe I would have even chosen to wear a scarf if I’d had options to choose from. But it hurts me so much when others make decisions for ME instead of myself.”

Another participant wrote: “Stealthy freedom is more enjoyable when you’ve grown in a religious family that respect your choice based on your beliefs, but it becomes even sweeter when your father decides to take a picture of your stealthy freedom on the seaside by the Persian Gulf, with his own camera; and is happy for you to share it with other women of your country. I hope we see the days when we can celebrate our freedom all together.”

Iranian activist and journalist Leila Mouri writes: “Now is the time to stop justifying mandatory hijab in the name of religion, nation, country, or culture. It is time to remind ourselves, as women and human rights activists, that when it comes to women’s rights, there is no room for appeasement.”

(Article by Isa Abu Jamal)

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