On February 1st, the world joined the #WorldHijabDay celebration, women from all faiths and nationalities shared they joy, proud and support for the use of the Islamic veil. But what happens when the government forces you to use one? Women in Iran live under this reality. In the spirit to protest against this government law, exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad started on May 3, 2014, the social media movement: My Stealthy Freedom.
Through a Facebook page, Iranian women are encouraged to post their experiences and photos without the veil and share their story about how this law has affected their lives. The goal of this movement is to defiant the authorities by showing pictures or videos of Iranian women without their hijab in public spaces or shaking it with a stick standing on a street on #WhiteWednesdays.
How the veil become mandatory in Iran?
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, and officially in 1983, there has been a mandatory law to use a veil and loose clothing for women in public spaces, the punishment for not doing it is to pay a bill or get arrested. We have to remember that by the time of the Revolution, the anti-Western sentiment in this country was at the top, breaking all the ties with Mohamed Reza Pahlavi’s government and trying to return a more religious and conservative society.
MyBy time of reformist president Mohamad Khatami in the 1900’s, the regulation of the veil was challenged and many women started to show a more relax use of it, showing a bit more of frontal hair, even nowadays there are many young Iranian women with a more fun and stylish bearing, with no concern about being strictly covered.
Moreover, the Iranian people has been characterized as a very active civil society, we have the examples of the last year December protests or the Green Movement in 2009; if something is not working for them they are not afraid of standing against it. And certainly Masih Alinejad found a powerful instrument in social media for her demands about the veil.
Goals and Challenges for My Stealthy Freedom
Her movement has gained incredible international recognition, in 2015 she was awarded by the Geneva Summit of Human Rights and Democracy. Alinejad gave women the opportunity to express their rejection, frustration and questioning to the government imposition, posting their photos, videos, testimonials giving confidence that it can be done anonymously. Besides, there is also room to read the negative reaction it it has caused, especially from the government.
The movement has growing in sympathy not only for international women but also Iranian men, there are also pictures of men showing support to their wives, sisters or friends standing with their struggle. The vision of the movement is the personal choice to wear hijab not by imposition of any type of government or clerical leaders. As a challenge is not only fighting against the institutional figures but it also represents a generational shift, times have changed since 1979 and this should be reflected in the liberty that women must have.
My Stealthy Freedom proves that wearing hijab, abaya, burka or any other type of veil should always be a personal decision and all women, wearing it or not, must be respected. So, maybe next time we should celebrate a #WorldHijabChoiceDay!
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