Women defy hijab law in Iran but how long until gov’t cracks down?

By Jamie León

Tehran, Feb 8 (EFE).- Mana has not covered her hair with a veil since Mahsa Amini’s death in custody in September, an event which triggered unprecedented civil unrest in Iran and a violent police crackdown.

Members of the police have insulted the 40-year-old woman and hurled scraps of food at her for walking through the Iranian capital Tehran without a hijab, but she has so far not been forced to wear one or been detained, despite laws making the veil mandatory.

While many women have embraced the defiant gesture, many are also wondering how long this relative leniency will last.

Long, flowing hair has become commonplace, particularly in Tehran and in universities, since Amini died after she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for not wearing her veil properly.

The young Kurdish woman’s death sparked the biggest protests in the country in decades, but they were met by a violent crackdown that has left almost 500 people dead, nearly 20,000 arrested and four executed, according to NGOs.

Despite the threat of violence, incarceration and even death, many women are still refusing to wear a veil, which has been mandatory in Iran since 1983, with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini dubbing the garment a “flag of the revolution.”


The big question now is whether Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, and president Ebrahim Raisi, will allow women to continue to forgo the regime’s rules that require women to wear a hijab or headscarf in public.

“I think they are going to force us to wear the veil again,” Mana, a resident of Tehran, tells Efe.

She stopped wearing the veil after Amini’s death and doesn’t even carry one in her bag or around her neck, but that defiance has led to her being abused in public.

“The police call me a bitch for walking down the street without the veil,” Mana adds.

She says she is often called a “lesbian” and a “boy” due to her relatively short hair and pierced eyebrow, and has even had food scraps thrown at her in the central Valiasr square in Tehran, where riot police are stationed.

“Agents have thrown apple scraps and things at me as I walked past them,” she says.

She has also turned down jobs because they required her to wear a headscarf.

Despite the abuse and difficulties, she refuses to wear the veil, saying she is “tired” of laws that she considers “unacceptable.”

“I am going to continue without a veil until I have no choice but to put it on,” which she fears could be soon.

“I’ve heard that they’re going to use new technology to detect women who don’t wear headscarves,” she says.

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