Conflicts & War

Headscarves cast aside, Iran’s women challenge Islamic republic

By Jaime León

Tehran, Oct 28 (EFE).- Women are increasingly engaging in civil disobedience in Iran as more and more are seen in public with their hair uncovered, a challenge to the Islamic republic’s strict religious dress code and a rebellious gesture that would have been unthinkable just a few weeks ago.

The current movement began on September 16 in response to the death in police custody of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by the so-called morality police in Tehran for allegedly not wearing her headscarf properly.

Enforced in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, obligatory hijab laws in Iran have become a symbol of the theocratic state founded by Ayatollah Khomeini.

Amini’s death sparked nationwide protests organized and led by young people and women under the slogan “Woman, Life, Freedom.”

But in recent weeks, another type of protest began to take hold, more subtle but just as brave: many women have stopped wearing the veil.

Women on the streets of Tehran can be seen not only without the scarf covering their heads, but simply without it, not even on their shoulders.

Women who do not cover their hair can be subjected to prison sentences and fines, according to the Iranian penal code, and risk arrest by the morality police.

A 33-year old doctor who has joined the women’s movement and has stopped wearing her veil spoke with Efe on the condition of anonymity.

“You have to wear the veil to cover your head and if you also wear a chador (a black garment that covers the whole body except for the face), even better,” she said.

She accused the morality police of being “sick” for its obsession with feminine “modesty” and said: “Until now we used to hide from the police, but we don’t want to do that anymore.”

She is now thinking about moving to Europe to look for better professional opportunities but also to gain more freedoms as a woman.

While the civil disobedience gesture spreads through the country, the protests continue to be heavily repressed by the security forces.

Iran Human Rights, an Iranian NGO based in Oslo, estimates that at least 234 people, including 29 minors, have been killed in the unrest. EFE


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