Iranian Women Find New Platform for Personal Freedom Push
13 May 2014
Summer is approaching in Iran and with it comes the seasonal public battle between the regime and women over Hejab-the mandatory covering of hair and body.
Here is how it goes: for a few weeks at the beginning of warm weather season—when sandals and capri pants and colorful linen tunics replace drab winter coats and boots–Iran’s morality police raid the streets punishing women for daring to show their painted toes, bare ankles and streaks of highlight.
Sometimes the women are fined. Sometimes they are given a verbal notice and often they are detained for several hours.
This scenario has been going on for 35 years, as long as the Islamic Republic has existed and imposed Hejab on women. It is a losing battle, for the regime not the women.
Iranian women have suddenly found a new platform to fight back: a new Facebook page dedicated to publishing photos of Iranian women without Hejab, flaunting their hair in public.
Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women, the name of the Facebook page, has gained over 100,000 members since it was first created a week ago. On average it’s gaining about 20,000 members per day, most of them from inside Iran.
One picture shows a young woman with long brown hair in a ponytail, standing on the side of a road, her arms stretched open. “Freedom is sweet even for one second,” she writes.
Another women posts a picture from herself standing in a field of flowers: “Feeling the wind blow through my hair was a strange feeling, I wish we could always experience it.”
The pictures are pouring in from all corners of Iran, even religiously conservative cities like Qum, Isfahan and Mashad. These small acts of rebellion are taking place in public, such as a woman letting her scarf slip as she is driving on the highway or standing on the beach or posing at a major tourist attraction.
Mothers and even grandmothers have even joined the cause posting pictures. In one, three generations of women stand on a boulevard lined with trees. Their headscarves are casually draped on their shoulders.
The grandmother writes, “We wish that the new generation tastes this most basic freedom before their hair goes gray. Is this too much to ask?”
In some of the pictures a male family member joins the woman, as a signal of approval to ward off criticism in a patriarchal society. Some men even write encouraging comments below the pictures and praise the women for their courage.
“Iranian women may not have a lot of freedom but they have always known how to go around the system and find it,” said Masih Alinejad, a prominent Iranian journalist in London and the founder of the page.
Ms. Alinejad is best known for her gutsy interviews with Iranian officials and reporting on the regime’s human rights violations. She said that the idea to create this page came to her after receiving a flood of comments from her female Iranian fans on a picture of herself joyously running down the street in London, her curly dark hair swept upward by the wind.
Women wrote to her saying they were envious of her freedom to not wear the veil. They told her that sometimes, in stolen moments of liberation, they too, shed their scarves.
Ms. Alinjead then posed a question on her public Facebook page asking if women cared to share such pictures. At first she thought she would post them on her own page but pictures flooded her inbox, more than 50 a day, from ordinary women who were not activists or dissidents. She decided the women needed to be seen and heard with their own separate page.
“Social media has turned into a mirror for Iranian women to be able to reflect the realities of their lives,” said Ms. Alinejad.
The page does more than just show unveiled hair and body. It has morphed into a unique platform for debate about personal freedom, the veil and the social restrictions imposed by the Islamic Republic.
The regime has taken notice. Fars News Agency, a semi-official news outlet affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, denounced the page and accused Ms. Alinjead of working with Iran’s enemies to promote promiscuous behavior.
One of Shiite seminaries in Qum led by a conservative cleric organized a protest in downtown Tehran last week, where a few hundred men and women covered head-to-toe in black chador, chanted angry slogans against women sporting a “bad hejab.”
“My freedom has always been accompanied by fear,” wrote a woman from Tehran in the caption of her picture.
The wall street Journal
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