Hijab Law Protest Movement

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Iranian women have been taking off their headscarves in public to protest the country’s strict Islamic dress code, which dictates that all women must wear hijabs and modest clothing. The compulsory hijab law was created after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, when Ayatollah Khomeini and his followers overthrew the Shah’s secular regime and established Iran as an Islamic Republic (theocracy ruled by Islamic laws) Currently, Iran is 1 of only 2 countries with mandatory hijab laws. The other is Saudi Arabia. In late December of 2017, a huge wave of anti-government protests was sparked by concerns over the economy.

This provided an opening for activists to also push for women’s rights, and draw attention to the hijab law issue. On December 28 of 2017 in Tehran, Vida Mohaved, a 31-year old Iranian woman, climbed up on a utility box on Enghelab street. She had strategically chosen this street because “Enghelab” means “Revolution” in Farsi. Mohaved tied her white hijab on the end of a stick and waved it as a flag to the crowds passing by as her hair flowed freely. Photos and videos of her one-person protest went viral on social media.

Vida Mohaved disappeared the day after the photos and videos of her emerged, drawing even more attention to her cause as as many expressed concern on social media with the hashtag #Where_Is_She. Days later, it was discovered that Mohaved had been arrested. She was released after a month on January 28, 2018. More protests were incited after Mohaved’s release. Dozens of other young women have staged similar protests in the streets, and social media has dubbed these women “The Girls of Enghelab Street” or “The Girls of Revolution Street” in honor of Mohaved’s protest.

At least 33 women who participated in this campaign have been arrested by Iran’s morality police under charges such as “committing a sinful act,” “violating public prudency,” and “encouraging immorality or corruption.” If convicted, these charges can carry penalties up to over a decade. Along with arrest, activists also face harassment from the morality police and fellow Iranians. Many are threatened with acid spraying, rape, and abuse on social media and in the real world. Many women are too fearful to demonstrate in the streets or post pictures of themselves on their personal social media accounts.

However, thousands of Iranian women have been sending in photos and videos of themselves without hijabs to Masih Alinejad, who runs the most prominent social media campaigns against compulsory hijabs called “White Wednesday” and “My Stealthy Freedom.” Alinejad lives in exile in the U.S., so she is free to share videos and photos protestors send her on her social media accounts. She has accumulated a combined following of over 2.3 million people and provided Iranian women with a platform to share their discontent. It is not just protesters that have to fear detainment. Human rights defenders and lawyers have also been jailed for publicly supporting the protestors as well as representing them in court.

Most notably, is Farhad Meysami, a medical doctor who was arrested in July for carrying buttons that read “I am against compulsory hijab” He was charged with “colluding to commit crimes against national security” and is still being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. Meysami has been on hunger strike since August 1, 2018 to protest the charges he faces as well as being denied a lawyer of his choosing. He is reportedly being held in the prison’s medical clinic where he is being force fed and hydrated intravenously. There has been much concern for Farhad’s well-being, for he has been on hunger strike a whole four months and his health reportedly deteriorating rapidly. UN human rights experts have recently called on Iran to release Farhad Meysami and all others who have been imprisoned for promoting and protecting the rights of women.

All in all, the hijab law protest movement has gained more and more momentum throughout 2018 thanks to the help of social media. Support for the movement has been shown by hijab-wearing women, non-hijabis, and male allies. Although activists have managed to bring a lot of attention to the movement, the mandatory hijab law is still a very split issue. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani released a 3-year old report in February which found that 49.2% of Iranian people believe that whether or not a woman wears a hijab is a personal issue that the government should not be involved in. On the other end, this also means that 50.8% do believe the government should enforce Islamic dress code. We will have to wait and see what happens next with this movement.


Cite this paper

Hijab Law Protest Movement. (2021, Aug 30). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/hijab-law-protest-movement/

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