February 25, 2018

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Iranian women take off headscarves to protest hijab

03 February 2018

Iranians appear to have taken inspiration from a woman who landed in jail late last month for a peaceful protest against Iran's strict Islamic dress code, echoing frustration at official restrictions on women's appearance in public.

During December's protests, a woman called Vida Movahedi took off her hijab and stood on Enghelab street, which translates as "Revolutionary Street", in Tehran's university district waving a white scarf.

Vida Movahed's protest in the centre of Tehran last month.

Unprecedented images of at least 11 women protesting the same way have been widely shared on social media. "This Revolution proved to the world that people can govern over their own fate", asserted the Iranian head of state, on days approaching the anniversary of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran which put an end to 2500 year old monarchy in Iran in favor of a long-waited democracy.

Although her protest and was in women's demonstrations, the image of her act of resistance quickly spread online. Thousands of people, including men, have changed their profile pictures in support of Movahed. It was not clear if she was still detained.

According to author Mona Eltahawy, "a total of 6 women made the same symbolic gesture: taking off their head scarves in public & waving them on a stick, emulating a young woman who climbed on the same sort of utility box on Dec.27 & was subsequently arrested", she said on Twitter Tuesday. While some critics have said that White Wednesday protests could cause authorities to tighten the rules again, Nia argues that sustained activism forced authorities to relax dress code laws in the first place.

Mohaved's identity was concealed until Iranian human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, announced on her Facebook page that Movahed had been released on Sunday (January 28).

"We are fighting against the most visible symbol of oppression", said Masih Alinejad, who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos of themselves without hijabs. Despite the fear of reprisals, millions of women in Iran defy the restrictions on a daily basis.

Iranian women take off headscarves to protest hijab