Protest in Iran Against Compulsory Hijab


Recently, protest against compulsory Hijab or abusive forced veiling has taken momentum in Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini. Iranian women are protesting against Iran’s forced veiling laws.

Women will wear Hijab or not it should be their choice. But in Iran, women and girls are forced to wear headscarf or Hijab and if they disobey then they are treated as criminals. Iran’s morality police drive around the city and they have the authority to stop women and inspect their dress.

Hijab previously was a significant part of Iranian society. There are several reasons women used to wear Hijab like family pressure, religious identity, tradition etc. Gradually it became compulsory for women and government tried to enforce Islamic dress code which is a black chador or a large piece of cloth, it covers the whole body except the face of the wearer. Iran consists of different ethnic groups like Persians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Lurs, Gilakis, Arabs, Balochi, Turk etc. They have their own traditional clothing and wears Headscarf or Hijab in different ways. But women are forced to wear Hijab in a particular way which is a sign of oppression. According to a survey report published in 2020, 72% of Iranians oppose the compulsory covering.    

What happens if someone refuses to wear hijab in Iran?

There are punishments if someone disobeys to wear veil or Hijab to cover their head. It includes arrest, imprisonment and fines. There are several incidents where the morality police slapped and beaten women for their dressing. The laws and values of Islamic Republic are used for harassment of women in public. Strangers use abusive languages and call women ‘whores’ if they do not cover their hair.

Morality Police known as Gasht-e-Ershad” is given responsibility to ensure women’s proper clothing. The officers of morality police have power to check that whether the dresses are too short or close fitted. Whether the woman is using too much make up? If they feel anyone is violating these norms then they are punished and sometimes bitten in public.   

After Islamic Revolution in Iran, mandatory dress codes were implemented for women. It is compulsory for every woman regardless of nationality and religious belief to wear a Hijab or headscarf in public place. A woman can be imprisoned from 10 days to 2 months with a fine of 50,000 – 500,000 Rial if they do not wear Hijab or Headscarf.

Anti-Hijab Protest in Iran

Iranian women protested several times against these practices. In 2014 they started a campaign and an online protest named as “My Stealthy Freedom”. There were several activists who stood up against forced veiling like Nasrin Sotoudeh. She was sentenced with 38 year and 6 months of imprisonment for charges like “inciting Corruption and Prostitution”. Her husband Reza Khandan was arrested in 2018 for his Facebook post against human rights violation in Iran and persecution of women.  

In 2016, other activists like Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi and Mojgan Keshavarz posted videos in International Women’s Day. In the video, it was shown that they were handing flower to female passengers in Tehran metro rail without headscarf. Those videos got viral and they all were arrested.  Another activist, Vida Movahedi protested solo by standing without wearing a Hijab on the top of a large dome in the Middle of Tehran.     

Recent protest after Mahsa Amini’s death

Mahsa Amini an Iranian woman died in Tehran due to police brutality. She was from Kurdistan province. Iran’s morality police arrested her from Haqqani metro station in Tehran for not wearing Hijab or headscarf and not covering arms and legs with loose clothing. She was abused and beaten up on the way up to the detention center. Her condition was serious and she was admitted in hospital. On 16th of September she died in hospital. Medical professionals believe that Mahsa had brain damage according to her clinical report. Medical documents leaked by an activist, states that Mahsa had signs of hemorrhage and bone fracture.       

Protest in Iran against Hijab started after Mahsha Amini’s death in hospital. It shows the extent of brutality and violence against women in Islamic Republic of Iran. Internet access were restricted and applications like WhatsApp and Instagram are blocked. Women activists from different part of the world started protest with slogans like “Women, life, freedom,” and “Death to the dictator”. Women in Iranian city of Kerman came out in street and protested against Amini’s death. Women protesters removed and burned their Hijabs in public. They also posted videos in TikTok. In the videos they chopped off their own hair for the protest. Several filmmakers, artists, athletes, politicians conveyed their anger over the death of Mahsa Amini.                  

If we see international law regarding this case, then it’s clear in Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 19 that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression”. Iran is also a signatory in Universal Declaration of Human Rights.   

Several countries have banned covering face and wearing Hijab. France had barred women from clothing which covers face and head in 2010 for protecting women and guarantee equality. Similarly, Denmark banned all kind of veils which covers the face. Recently, Sri Lanka joined the ban group by prohibiting wearing Burqa after series of blast in 2019 which killed 350 innocent people. In Kosovo, Hijab in public schools, universities and government buildings are banned since 2009.  

In Iran women are protesting against Hijab and forced veiling but in India we see a completely different picture. Here women are fighting for Hijab in school and other educational institutions. We had seen this picture in Karnataka Hijab row. Women protested throughout the country against restricting Hijab in government schools in Karnataka.

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