If I was asked to write Iran 101, or “Iran for beginners”, one of the features that I talk about first would probably be: “All women in Iran have to obey the Islamic dress code”.
The Iranian Islamic Revolution embodied itself in the “Marg bar Amrika” ( مرگ بر آمریکا, Death to America) and the compulsory veiling of women. If you ask me what the Iranian Revolution is, I would point out these two without saying anything else. Since 1979, what women wear and what they do, and how much they cover their hair, has been a highly political issue.
By the way, veiling or hijab is compulsory not only for Iranian women but also for all women going to Iran. In fact, Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ann Linde, while she was serving as the trade minister, went to Iran and wore a headscarf and a mantle. She was criticized in her country for supporting this discriminatory policy against women by complying with the hijab rules.
Laws and social pressure
There are laws regulating women’s clothing in Iran, as well as social pressure. If women wear headscarves that do not cover their hair completely, or if their coats reveal their body features, they may be detained by the “Gashd-e Ershad”, policemen patrolling for “morality” on the street. Sometimes women are released at the police station after being scolded, and sometimes they are sent to court, receiving prison sentences.
In the days when Türkiye’s President Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin were visiting Tehran, Iranian social media was talking about footage of Gashd-e Ershad police, trying to detain a young woman by forcing her into their minibus while the woman’s mother begging the police, saying that her daughter was ill.
This is the official part. There is also an unofficial part: social pressure. Any man or woman on the street, who does not like the way the hijab was worn, can warn women by saying: “Cover your head properly”. These warnings and responses have started to create serious social tension.
Teeth marks on the arm
Another footage that was talked about on Iranian social media was from a bus… A woman gets on the bus with her hair uncovered, and a woman in a veil warns the woman without a headscarf. Alerted, the woman begins to take the image of the woman in the veil attacking herself, the woman in the veil shouts, “You will send this video to Masih, right? Send it, and I will send your video to the Revolutionary Guards.” After the brawl, we see the bite-marked arm of the woman without a headscarf on camera.
The father of the veiled woman who attacked the woman without a headscarf is an academic working at Azad University. He was a literature professor. She went on with her life. The headscarfless woman was arrested.
“White Wednesdays” movement
When the revolution constructs itself over covering the female body, persistent objections to the strict rules of the Sharia regime also come from women. Journalist Masih Alinejad, who fled Iran in 2009, did something that captured women’s outcry:
She started a movement called “My camera is my weapon”. Women filmed the attacks they suffer when they don’t wear hijab and sent the video to Masih Alinejad for her to post them online on her social media account to inform the global public.
This movement later grew into the “White Wednesdays“ demonstrations.. On Wednesdays, women symbolically took off their white headscarves and started to protest in the busy spots of the cities. The movement had a snowball effect as it grew, and the reaction of the regime became harder. Some of these women were arrested.
One of them, Seba Kordefshari, was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Kordefshari was released on bail last year for $500,000. A significant number of these women fled Iran via Turkey.
It may tell something about the domestic political debates on refugees, as some of the politicians were talking about “mining the borders”, and “catching every foreigner and sending them out”. Maybe it would be better for them to think about this aspect of the issue.
A what? A male-female breakfast?
Regime tries, please excuse my saying so, to keep women’s leash tight. The issue of women’s clothing has increasingly become an element of social tension. The control of the Gashd-e Ershad police is more visible every day. They fill the women in buses and take them to the police stations. The importance and necessity of the headscarf began to be emphasized in Friday prayers, which is a weekly meeting where the policy of the regime in Iran is explained.
For example, Bojnurd city council member, Azam Sadat Afshinfar, said, “I see officers having breakfast with men and women in the workplaces. I can’t believe my eyes”. For example, the deputy prosecutor in Mashhad demanded that women who do not cover their heads not be served in banks and that they be banned from taking the subway. Such strange statements follow each other. Iran’s religious guide, Khamenei, gave a fatwa last year that female cartoon characters should also wear headscarves. A compilation of nonsense. Khamenei, also commented on the worldwide #metoo movement, saying that the problem of sexual violence can only be solved by covering women.
Hijab and Chastity Day
The regime recently declared July 12 as the day of headscarf and chastity. The more women try to open up, the more the regime tries to cover them. As a reaction to this, women started to shoot and broadcast their videos without headscarves, just like the White Wednesday protests.
Iranian women -at least a significant amount of them- are risking all to say, “We don’t want to be forced to cover up.” They are tired of being pushed around and thrown in jail all the time for this reason.
This regime is incompatible with Iran, everyone knows this, but there is no way to change it through elections or demonstrations. For now, no one knows what the road is. In the end, the ones who are more affected by this are women…