Sunday, October 26, 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.
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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 
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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
 Previous    
by: Flanagan from: Ottawa, Canada
July 23, 2012 11:31
Women in the civilized world not only have the freedom to decide what to wear, they are allowed to vote, drive, leave the house without permission of a man, work at what they choose, attend the school of their choice and rightly see themselves as the equal of any man.

When women in the islamic world are given these same freedoms, islam itself might be ready to join modernity...
In Response

by: Sarah from: World
July 23, 2012 16:48
the only regimes that does not let Muslim women drive and vote in the Muslim world is the Saudi regime, the greatest ally and aid recipient of the ''free'' Western world. So you in Ottawa pay with your tax money for the Harper regime to keep the most despotic and unIslamic regime in power. When your elitist regimes in the ''free'' West stop backing despots like al-Saud and creating organizations like al-Qaeda than Muslims will establish genuine Islamic systems.

Stop living in a FoxNews buble and for the record take a look at the improvement of women's rights in Iran after the Islamic Revolution - http://www.conflictsforum.org/2010/iranian-women-after-the-islamic-revolution-2/
In Response

by: Flanagan from: Ottawa, Canada
July 23, 2012 18:20
Nowhere in the islamic world do women have the freedom that they do in the civilized world.

In Iran, women have to wear bags on their heads and have no equal rights in marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance.

According to the World Economic Forum's 2010 Gender Gap report--which compared disparity between men and women on economic participation, access to education, health, and political empowerment--Iran ranked 123 out of 134 countries. This was better than many islamic countries, ahead of Egypt, Morocco, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and even Turkey. However, the UN report notes that the application of certain laws is a barrier to gender equality in Iran. For instance, a woman's worth and testimony in a court of law is regarded as half that of a man's. Women do not have equitable inheritance rights, nor can they be granted guardianship rights for their children, even upon the death of their husbands. The report says female activists who try to address gender equality issues are often targeted and imprisoned.

As to the facts you spout - Ottawa pays no aid to Saudi and we consider Israel to be our best ally in the region.
In Response

by: xxx from: Ottawa
July 23, 2012 23:53
A note on "genuine Islamic system"!

Would be nice if you specify ideals and goals of such a system in terms of democracy, free expression, health, education, gender equality, freedom of religion, family & inheritance laws, food security, and human rights. It would also be nice of you if you could specify how those goals would be reached and financed.

More interesting, if you could specify the system with examples (historical/present) of societies/states that have achieved the goals and ideals of genuine Islamic system.

The challenge is of course open to anyone :)
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 24, 2012 17:36
Men inherit twice as women because men have to spend on their wives and children, but women do not have to spend a penny. Women's testimony in court is half of men's because women are much more sentimental than men. Women can take care of children until they are 7 years old.
In Response

by: Flanagan from: Ottawa
July 24, 2012 20:09
"Women's testimony in court is half of men's because women are much more sentimental than men."

Thank you for proving my point that islam is stuck in the 7th century and muslim men like yourself are blinded by a "religion" that seeks to subjugate women and "infidels".
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 26, 2012 15:32
You made an absolutely wrong conclusion.
In Response

by: Hossein from: Tehran
July 26, 2012 17:32
"we consider Israel to be our best ally in the region."

So you support the killers who kill innocent Palestinian children and call it self-defense. I do not expect you to understand a bit of Islam.
     

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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.

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