Iran’s Hijab War: A Continuing Battle

On July 5, 2014 by Tim Newman

Iran Posters - anti America

In Iran it’s illegal for a woman not to wear a hijab in public. To our Western sensibilities that seems like utter madness, but I guess you have to try and remove your Westerncentric goggles every so often to try and understand the wider world. Iranian police have a “morality” unit, who are quite literally the fashion police; if they catch a women uncovered they commonly arrest her and detain her overnight.

The hijab law has been in place since the Islamic revolution in Iran 35 years ago. In the 70’s Iran was ruled by Shah Reza Pahlavi, he was fairly autocratic and his mates tended to get the prime slots in government. As the gap between rich and poor grew there was general dissent. Many Iranians turned for guidance and leadership to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini a Muslim cleric living in exile in Paris.

Iran Islamic Revolution 1979

He promised economic reforms and a return to Islamic principles. Strikes and riots ensued and Iran was brought to its knees. Shah went on “holiday” in 1979 and never returned. Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran like a hero and riots and fights continued in the streets between supporters of both factions.

The Prime Minister the Shah had installed before fleeing eventually resigned and Ayatollah swept into power with a landslide vote at referendum. He was declared political and religious leader of Iran for life. The world’s first Islamic state was born.

A recent movement started by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad called My Stealthy Freedom has been causing an uproar in her home country. My Stealthy Freedom is simply a Facebook group that shows Iranian women shamelessly not wearing a hajib outdoors. It’s difficult to see how someone simply not wearing a headscarf could cause any kind of drama, but it has.

My Stealthy Freedom - Women hijab 4

The FB page has well over half a million ‘likes’ so there’s obviously some support out there. Most of the ‘likes’ come from Tehran and are from people aged between 25 and 34 which I guess is what you might predict.

My Stealthy Freedom - Women hijab 3

My Stealthy Freedom hosts hundreds of photos submitted by Iranian women, like the ones in this article, with comments such as…

I loathe the hijab. I too like the feel of the sun and the wind on my hair. Is this a big sin?

When I first read about My Stealthy Freedom I wondered whether this could be the small flame that ignited the fire of indignation in a nation of suppressed women. But this suppression is a lot deeper than than FB.

My Stealthy Freedom - joy

My Stealthy Freedom sparked demonstrations in Tehran, but not the sort of demonstrations I imagined it would. Women and men hit the streets calling for the country’s dress code to be tightened up and better policed.

Many Iranians see this perceived slip in morals as the steady march of Western politicians swallowing up their culture and freedoms. It’s easy for us to look at our own lives and say “why wouldn’t you want a life like ours?” But our modern excesses certainly have their pitfalls too.

Pro Hijab Protest

The current Prime Minister of Iran – Hassan Rouhani – is on the moderate side of things and has called for the softening of some of the more oppressive Islamic laws. What seems like good sense from our perspective hasn’t been unanimously accepted by the Iranian people at all.

The demonstrators also showered down dissent about Iran’s nuclear teeth being removed by the West. Many Iranians don’t feel that they should have to answer to the likes of the UK and US with our penchant for evil, over-sexed, drug fueled, wanton abandon. And you have to see their point: why should a country so different and opposite to theirs have any say over their homeland at all?

Here’s some posters from a pro-hijab website in Iran. As ever a picture speaks a thousand words. This first couple of billboards sparked hilarity and disgust in equal measure on social media outlets. Comparing a woman to a sweet that attracts flies if uncovered…

Iran Posters - unwrapped sweet 3 Iran Posters - unwrapped sweet 2 Iran Posters - three legged chair hijab

More posters on next page…


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