Thursday, September 18, 2014


Persian Letters

Iranians Use Facebook To Say 'No' To Compulsory Hijab

Iranian officials maintain that the hijab is the best protection for women
Iranian officials maintain that the hijab is the best protection for women
Women have worn the hijab in Iran for three decades -- some voluntarily, others begrudgingly. 
 
To not do so would be breaking the law. But now women from both camps are going online to push back. 
 
Dozens of Iranian women, and some men, living both inside and outside the country, have posted their pictures on the Facebook page of a newly launched campaign called, “No to Mandatory Hijab” that declares that women should have the right to choose whether or not to wear the Muslim headscarf. 

Among the posters, according to the campaign’s organizers, are women living inside the country who voluntarily wear the chador -- the long cloak with a head scarf -- but believe that the hijab shouldn’t be compulsory. 
 
The activists who launched the campaign describe themselves as “liberal university students and graduates” and say it’s meant to be an expression of solidarity with Iranian women, who they say should have the freedom to decide what they wear. 
 
Dozens of intellectuals, journalists, activists, artists, religious and secular Iranians have joined the campaign by posting their pictures on the Facebook page of the campaign and expressing their opposition to the mandatory hijab. In just a few days the page has attracted more than 10,000 fans. 
 
Campaign leader Alireza Kiani told RFE/RL that at least half of the people who have “liked” the page live inside Iran. Kiani, who left Iran about a year ago, says he was deeply bothered by the constant harassment of Iranian women over their appearance.
 
“It’s an insult to women but also men,” he says about the mandatory hijab.
 
Iranian officials claim that women who do not properly cover up themselves lead men astray. They also maintain that the hijab -- especially the chador -- is the best protection for women.
 
The 27-year-old Kiani said the campaign is aimed at stirring public opinion about the compulsory hijab and forcing political figures and others to take a stand.

“We’re especially targeting the reformists and religious intellectuals who in the early days of the revolution were either supportive of the mandatory hijab or kept silent about it," Kiani said.

"We believe that if tomorrow Iran will be free, if in tomorrow’s Iran there won’t be any compulsion and mandatory hijab, those reformists, religious intellectuals, and, in general, political figures have to take a clear stance regarding it. So that if there are changes in Iran, we will have a document from them proving that they expressed their opposition to the compulsory hijab.” 
 
The mandatory hijab -- often described as one of the pillars of the Islamic Republic -- has long been a challenge for authorities to enforce. 
 
For the past 30 years, women in Iran have been harassed, arrested, and fined for not fully observing the Islamic hijab dress code -- which requires them to cover their hair and body and dress modestly in public. But men, also, face pressure over their appearance or hairstyles, when authorities consider them inappropriate or un-Islamic. 
 
One of the women contributing to the Facebook campaign.One of the women contributing to the Facebook campaign.
x
One of the women contributing to the Facebook campaign.
One of the women contributing to the Facebook campaign.
Despite the state pressure, it’s not uncommon to see young women pushing the boundaries by wearing trendy and tight clothing, using make-up, and showing as much hair as possible. The state responds with crackdowns -- usually in summer -- and increasing the pressure on anyone who challenges the rules. 
 
The participation of a prominent reformist cleric, U.S.-based Mohsen Kadivar, in the “No Hijab” campaign has been met with criticism by some who say his political affiliation and religious views could undermine the cause.  
 
Kadivar has been quoted by an opposition website as saying that there is no religious reason to make the hijab compulsory.  “We don’t have any verses in the Koran or saying by the [Prophet Muhammad] that gives anyone the right to take action against an individual that doesn’t wear the hijab,” Kadivar is quoted as saying by the opposition Jaras website. 
 
Kiani sees Kadivar’s participation as a positive development.  

“It’s natural for seculars to oppose the Islamic hijab because it is a religious issue. It is important that a cleric like Kadivar, who used to be one of the supporters of this regime, is today publicly opposing the mandatory hijab," Kiani said.

"For this campaign it is an honor to have been able to create a [movement] in which Kadivar, along with, for example, the [popular Iranian singer] Sattar, says no to compulsory hijab.” 
 
Not all opponents of the hijab are supporting the campaign. Posts on social media sites by activists reflect a distrust of the campaign organizers. There is some distrust of “liberal university students and graduates” who, in the past, have expressed support for tough Western sanctions against the Islamic Republic, which some fear could eventually result in military strikes against Iran. 
 
One woman in Tehran who did not want to be named said that despite her strong opposition to the hijab, she was not planning to join the campaign. 
 
“What’s the use of it?” she wrote. “It is not going to change the pressure we’re facing to cover up. I think our defiance is stronger than an online move. [Morality police] detain us, harass us, but we keep coming to the streets with makeup and small, colorful scarves.” 
 
It’s true that in recent months, Iranian activists have launched a number of social media campaigns that burned brightly at first, but were quickly forgotten or fell inactive -- including the “Iran Loves Israel” campaign and the “One Million Likes for [opposition leader] Mir Hossein Musavi,” which garnered only about 3,500. 
 
Kiani said he and his colleagues are determined that the “No Hijab” campaign won’t meet the same fate. 

-- Golnaz Esfandiari 
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
    Next 
by: Elnaz from: Tehran
July 20, 2012 23:58
This article is a clear exaggeration of hijab laws in Iran, in Iran hijab is a law as a modesty concept, not as a dress code per say. Women wear hijab in 100s of different ways. Go to Tajrish square and Parke Mellat and you will see that modesty rules are imposed in a very relaxed manner.

Every society has a dress code. If you will walk topless in London you will get fined or detained. At work places in Western countries there is a strict dress code on what is appropriate and what is not.

This piece is written by an exile secular activist who has not been in Iran for a long time or when does come to Iran sticks around only in North Tehran. The reality is that women in Iran want hijab, Iranians voted in a referendum for an Islamic system, we are 100 times a freer society than Western backed al-Saud and others put together.
In Response

by: Maryam
July 21, 2012 13:18
This article is definitely not an exageration of the pressure and humiliation women face in Iran over their appearance. The situation is actually worse than it has been depicted in this article. These women and men are brave to publicly say no to the mandatory hijab.
In Response

by: robertt
July 21, 2012 15:26
Not every woman in iran wants to wear The ugly hijab. Elnaz, nothing in this world is %100. Maybe in countries like Iraq, when Sadam Hussain got %100 percent of the votes. If you claim that every iranian women want to wear Hijab, then how come no iranian women is wearing a Hijab outside of iran except for the very elderly.
Iranian disdane hijab elnaz. It is unnatural and it is not a mandate from God, other wise God would't give woman a face. It make the woman ugly.
In Response

by: Hossein from: Iran
July 22, 2012 06:12
I agree with you that not every woman in Iran wants to wear hijab, but I disagree with you that hijab is ugly or makes women ugly. Women never become ugly with hijab. However, hijab in Islam is not only for women. Men also have to cover their bodies. If you have a pearl or any precious thing, you would never expose it to the public, because it would be stolen. Woman is the pearl that should be covered.
In Response

by: Nezanin from: Yazd,Iran
July 21, 2012 21:14
As a person who lived abroad and in Iran I do agree that every society has a dress code that is enforced in one way or another. Take the Islamophobic act of banning Hijab in schools in France as one example or celebrity pressure on society what constitutes a proper dress and fashion.

The problem is that the Iranians who live abroad and get vast Western media exposure are presented as an Iranian society, this is a very wrong approach. The concept of modesty which the Iranian society enforces itself on its members is Iran's tradition which foreign Iranians became alien to. Modesty is Iran's national heritage which foreign powers want to take away like its oil.
In Response

by: Jennifer
July 22, 2012 19:06
Social pressure exists in every society, you're right. But there is a very big difference between bottoms-up "fashion trends" and top-down, law-enforced, MANDATORY specific pieces of clothing. If it really were a matter of Iranian society reinforcing itself culturally, you would not need a modesty police. Not all forms of enforcement are equal.

And please do not try and claim that Iranian society is some sort of homogenous entity that agrees on what traditions should be continued. The youth, especially young women, should have a voice in the matter too. In any case, Iran's national heritage is much, much richer than a law making the hijab mandatory. As a matter of fact, don't you think that if all women wore the hijab voluntarily, without being harassed into doing so, it would be a much more beautiful and indigenous expression of culture and heritage?
In Response

by: whitecrane from: WA
July 22, 2012 20:53
If covering is to protect women, then there would not be the number of rapes and violence against them. They would be completely safe, and we know that is not the case. In fact, the violence against women is on the upswing.
In Response

by: Jen Jonez from: USA
July 22, 2012 21:28
Hossein from Iran, I am an American woman (not religious) and I agree with you. I have shared a home with friends from the middleast, and I found that our sense of modesty was very similar. I believe in freedom of choice, but I feel that it is the classiest of choices to cover the body appropriately. Also, I am not physically unattractive, so my tastes do not reflect envy.
In Response

by: Flanagan from: Ottawa, Canada
July 22, 2012 14:23
Fascinating that Elnaz thinks that women forced to wear bags on their heads to stop raping them are somehow freer than western women who make their own choices on what to wear.
In Response

by: Muslim from: EU
July 23, 2012 00:11
''western women who make their own choices on what to wear.''

So naive, secular ruling elites along with Hollywood dictate in a very subtle and sophisticated manner what to wear. Do basic research on malnourishment in the fashion industry in the pseudo-free West.

Britney Spears kinds are more enforcing of the dress code in London, NY and Paris than basij can ever be, just bcs its not obvious to you, it does not mean it is not there.

by: Muslim from: EU
July 21, 2012 00:31
If Iranians would hate the system as much as the Western media claims, they would have overthrown the system like they did with the Shah or copy the Arabs of today, the fact that all is calm in Iran even with vast Western sabotage efforts shows that the government has critical mass support.

US spends 800 million a year to topple the system, it is failing and so will Facebook
In Response

by: willy from: terra del fuego
July 21, 2012 21:45
You are undoubtedly right about saying that the US spends massive amounts of money trying to topple the regime in Iran, and yes it is true that these efforts are mainly part of a political agenda to gain control in the middle east and perpetuate Western ideologies.
But to say that the government of Iran has "critical mass support" is outright foolish. Any perceived support of the government in Iran is due to a policy of relentless religious propaganda and indoctrination, coupled with harsh suppression of any sort of opposition. Iranians have not overthrown the system because they know how much power the government in Iran holds and the drastic consequences they could face from rebelling.
In Response

by: saraab
July 22, 2012 00:50
Iranians have been through a revolution and a 8 year war with Iraq and the result of that has been anything but satisfactory. therefore for decades now they have tried to make peaceful reforms towards a modern society with freedom and human rights. It has been a slow progress and there were mass demonstrations in 2009 which resulted in alot of people being tortured, raped, and killed in prisons. revolutions are a product of uncontrolled emotions which result in disastrous outcomes. The Arab world is 30 years behind Iranians in acknowledging this truth.

by: ahmed from: hp
July 21, 2012 03:53
"----“It’s an insult to women but also men,” he says about the mandatory hijab.---"

Definitely it is a major insult to the MEN folk !

Men and boys should be trained and nurtured at home by their mothers and sisters to respect their women-folk, hijab or no hijab.

Do you mean to say that men in Muslim societies can not be trusted , if ladies do not don a burqa, a veil or a hijab.

Modesty is in the mind . It is a necessary component of the daily interactions between the human genders----hijab or no hijab.

Women ( and men too ) who live in societies that have no such hijab rules , are as modest and proper as those in IRAN etc.

In Response

by: Hossein from: Iran
July 22, 2012 10:34
Hijab is not an insult neither to women nor to men. Women are more respected with hijab. It avoids them harrassment.
To be honest, men in all societies not only in Muslim societies can not be trusted.
In Response

by: Rob from: Boston
July 22, 2012 14:59
You couldn't be more wrong. Real men are raised to respect women and are able to control themselves around them. Saying that a woman needs to be covered to avoid being harassed is asinine. It's time you crawl out of the 7th century and start treating your women as people not objects.
In Response

by: Elahe from: Tehran
July 22, 2012 17:54
Such nonsense, Hossein. I have to wear the hejab and I hate it. Men like you want to take Iran to the dark ages. Why should women cover up? They should be given the right to choose, a basic right women in Iran don't have. Shame on you
In Response

by: Hossein from: Iran
July 23, 2012 14:12
Those who want women to be naked are treating them as objects, Rob. Hijab helps men and women better control themselves. It is a prevention. Is it reasonable to expect men to control themselves while they are seduced?
In Response

by: Hossein from: Iran
July 23, 2012 14:19
Elahe, you already live in darkness. Hijab is a protection and prevention. Just look around yourself to see how many things are covered and limited just for the sake of protection. Try to understand.
In Response

by: rabadobado from: iran
July 25, 2012 09:21
read some of ur comments. so this reply should be seen as a summary reply :)

a religion occupy with what people wear? excuse me? that religion should find something else to do.

a god that is occupied with what people wear? excuse me? that god should really sit down and rethink his/her/its policy. i suggest god start dealing with equal access to clean water and clean air to everyone.

a state that is accupied with what people wear? excuse me? work on better hospitals, schools and roads!

a man occupied with what his mother/daughter/sister/girlfriend/wife wear? excuse me? get a life and mind your own business!

men occupied with what women wear? excuse me? take responsibility for your erections and dont ask women to cover up so that you dont get erection!

by: Sey from: World
July 21, 2012 06:45
It is compulsory for both women and men to dress modestly in Islam. It is indeed an outrage that women are forced to use the hijab or the chador, while men are allowed to use whatever unmoral clothing they like without much complication. And from that point of view, of course it is unfair.

But on the other hand, this is just another excuse by Iranians to bash Islam. Since they do not consider themselves part of the "Arab religion" as they call it, they of course don't want to be part of anything related to it. Iranians are not true Muslims, let's not deny it. There's hardly any other more anti-Islamic and pro-Western people in the Middle East.

But please, let's do some clarifying. Women in Iran have used the veil for far more than "3 decades". Also, some women in Iran and other so-called Muslim countries use the veil as the woman in the picture does, veiled but with more quantity of make-up than the actual length of her factions, then they are already not using hijab.

Don't like to wear hijab? Don't use hijab. But don't come bashing Islam for your own twisted version of what it should be. Islam is clear, but it is you who are the ones who pretend to be clear.

Everything I just said also goes to Christians, there is no use in unmoral Church-goers.

by: Sanaz from: Tehran
July 21, 2012 13:54
Mandatory hejab is a human rights violation. We have to decide about our attire not the state and not religion.
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 24, 2012 12:36
When women don't wear hijab, they violate men's right. We have the right to live in a sound and moral society in which there is no provocation. Every law has its own limitations but laws are necessary for the benefit of the society.
In Response

by: Laura from: D.C.
July 26, 2012 06:09
Hossein, oh my...where to start? Your repeat comments on how men are unable to control themselves when women go uncovered, and how it is proper and correct for women to cover themselves so that men may stay in control...so backward, so unbelievably backward.

And how is it that the rest of planet Earth manages to maintain their societal obligations and responsibilities when we are in such danger of walking down the street and running into an attractive person of the opposite sex? And, oh my! They might, or might not, be partially unclothed? Oh no! It *is* summertime in the northern hemisphere, and the U.S. right now is quite hot, I know that if I choose to walk down the street I could possibly see another human being in a bathing suit! Oh no!

Yet, somehow, we all manage to wake up each and every day, go to work, do our jobs and yet somehow avoid some being attacked or attacking someone because they didn't cover their hair up...
If you are going to perpetuate violence against another human being, please don't use the excuse of 'I could see her hair and it aroused me to the point of me losing control.' It's shaming another person into conforming to standards of behavior so that there are 'reasons' when you cannot keep to the basic societal dictates of reasonable behavior, e.g., don't hurt another person.
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 26, 2012 17:58
To Laura from D.C.
If you manage to avoid some being attacked or attacking someone because they didn't cover their hair up, then it is exactly what we do. Who told you that we support violence against another human being?!

by: BB from: Tehran
July 21, 2012 15:02
A state should be occupied with provision of health, education, employment. A state occupied with what people wear, be that that banning or imposing certain clothing - is interfering with individual rights of its citizens. A state should ONLY interfere with individual rights when these rights are in conflict with other rights.

In case of Iran, the state should make delivering clean air and water to its citizen its first priority rather than harassment of its citizens when they do not want to cover up as some people wish one covers up its body. After clean water and air, food security and employment should be Iranian state's concern rather than who has sex with whom or where they have sex.

In other words: State should minimize its interference in individuals choices in life, and rather choices possible.
In Response

by: Jen Jonez from: USA
July 22, 2012 21:31
BB from Tehran, I agree with your statement the most!

by: European from: EU
July 22, 2012 11:52
This article sounds a lot like white-mans burden. We Westerners assume that all what is not like us is ugly and abnormal, so all people must be like us in every way, even dress code.
In Response

by: Another European from: England
July 22, 2012 17:54
No we don't...You might though

by: pat
July 22, 2012 18:19
This silly hijab is another custom foisted on the nation by Arabs. It is not traditional and is an affront to a nation that was civilized 5,000 years ago. With a culture far richer than that of the fanatical desert tribes.

by: Yippee K
July 22, 2012 18:55
Let's be honest here. Hijabs, chorabs and all other female attire can all be worn either seductively or safely depending on the heart intent of the wearer. It's not the cloth covering her skin that makes her modest or not modest. Nor does the fabric around a woman's body cause or prevent men from either nurturing or not nurturing a lustful and immoral outlook on life in their own hearts. We people get so caught up in these external superficialities but God sees and judges us by our heart intentions.

by: Lauren from: USA
July 22, 2012 20:20
"Woman is the pearl that should be covered."

In some cases, the veil is good when bruises or black eyes need to be hidden
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 24, 2012 17:21
Do you mean that unveiled women do not get bruises or black eyes?!
In Response

by: Lauraq from: D.C.
July 26, 2012 06:16
Oh, Hossein...again.

No, it does not mean that those who do not wear the hijab do not get hit...but it does mean that their bruises are more visible, and that they are more likely to report such abuse. Hopefully, some of those women feel supported enough by their culture that they *will* speak out against their attacker(s.) But as most abused women -- regardless of location or manner of dress -- are abused by their spouses or family members, they are unlikely to speak out against those who help to house/shelter, support them and make up the framework of their lives. Such support systems, like shelters and unbiased court systems, are far more likely to be utilized in non-Shariah law countries...google for fun facts!

Which leads me to wonder...what makes someone abuse the women in their life? Lack of power? Lack of knowledge? Frustration? In any case, it's sad...but it has *nothing,* absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the women in question wear the hijab...
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 26, 2012 14:59
I really appreciate your conclusion: "it has *nothing,* absolutely nothing to do with whether or not the women in question wear the hijab". I do sympathize with women who become victims of abuse or violence, but you should also consider hundreds of men in Iran who are jailed just because they can not pay their wives' dowry.
In Response

by: rabadobado from: tehran
August 14, 2012 15:39
to mr. hossein :) read some of ur comments. consider this as a summary reply to ur comments:

a religion occupy with what people wear and whom they sleep with? excuse me? that religion should find something else to do. i suggest an update of outdated religions and religious books. an annual update of quran would be nice way to occupy the mullas.

a god that is occupied with what people wear? excuse me? that god should really sit down and rethink his/her/its policy. i suggest god start dealing with equal access to clean water and clean air for everyone. food security could also be an area for god.

a state that is accupied with what people wear? excuse me? work on better hospitals, schools and roads! a state should be occupied with making sure its citizens (men & women) can dress as they wish without being harassed.

a man occupied with what his mother/daughter/sister/girlfriend/wife wears? excuse me? get a life and mind your own business!

men occupied with what women wear? excuse me? take responsibility for your erections and dont ask women to cover up so that you dont get erection!
Comments page of 2
    Next 

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

Guerrilla Translators

Seen anything in the Iranian blogosphere that you think Persian Letters should cover? If so, contact Golnaz Esfandiari at esfandiarig@rferl.org