For 35 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has forced millions of Iranian women and young girls to wear a chador, hijab, or other form covering to hide their bodies and hair. Girls are ordered to wear a hijab at the age of eight or nine.
The moral police have been deployed to crack down on those women who do not fully comply with this Islamic rule.
Growing up in the Islamic Republic, I saw how many women and girls felt it intolerable to wear a hijab, not only because it breached the personal freedoms of each citizen, but also because they found it difficult to wear a hijab on hot desert days throughout the year. One of my university friends, Sahar, dreamt to one day be able to walk freely down the street, wearing whatever she liked, feeling the breeze, the wind blowing through her hair, and not having to wear this mandatory covering that had been part of her public life since she was eight years old.
One day, I attempted to help Sahar fulfill her dream and I took her to a field far from the eyes of the Islamic moral police, and she walked, ran, and jumped around without a scarf like a child. It felt as if she had been released from prison, like she was capable of feeling this simple pleasure of freedom for the first time. Nevertheless, we were still afraid that there might be a governmental observer or a spy hiding somewhere. It was not a totally liberating experience.
This simple individual freedom might be taken for granted by women in the Western democratic world. And some might find it comical, ridiculous, or bizarre to have such a simple dream. But this is truly a dream for millions of Iranian women.
The summer is coming and the heat reaches over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Iran. Working a full day with a thick hijab around your head and body can also cause serious health problems.
The battle between the Iranian regime, its moral Islamic police and women continues even after 35 years. When the summer comes, women attempt to push the boundaries of the religion and law by sliding their scarves a little bit back, making it looser in order to divert the heat or feel some breeze and wind.
The Islamic moral police though, ratchet up their crack down in the summer. The parliament is currently passing a new law that would work to enforce this dress code more strictly in the summer. They fine women, arrest them, detain them, jail them or even torture them if they keep resisting the Sharia and Islamic law of the land.
I believe that the Islamic law of Iran that forces and orders women to wear a mandatory hijab, and the Sharia law that punishes women who defy this rule, are not only ideological and religious, but are a means of control over women. These are legal, political, and judiciary instruments to control women’s bodies, subjugate them and humiliate them.
As a woman, if one would like to be promoted in a career, the regime imposes a much stricter dress code regarding the hijab, where no part of the body should be shown. Many people have lost their jobs due to this Islamic law.
Intriguingly, one of the ways that Iranian women have started to fight back is through Facebook and other social media platforms. A Persian Facebook page has recently been created called “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women.” On this page, Iranian women post their photos flaunting their hair, taking their hijabs off secretly in public spheres such as in streets, parks, mountains, and even in front of religious institutions.
A young Iranian girl posted a picture of herself without her scarf in front of one of the Grand Ayatollah’s offices. She wrote, “We will move faster until you comprehend what we can do, whatever you say, we will do the opposite, hoping for freedom.”
Another Iranian women posted a picture of herself, standing in water in one of the governmental fields. She said, “Freedom is a right of every human being. Freedom… happiness… colorfulness… is the right of every Iranian woman. Freedom is a right, and rights are to be fought for and obtained! They will not give it to you. So we will attain our rights ourselves.”
A husband takes a photo of his wife in Masooleh, in the north of Iran. It is posted on the Facebook page with almost 3000 likes in one day. She is jumping in the air spreading her hands and feeling the breeze through her hair. She writes, “Here is Masooleh. We searched and searched until we found a place devoid of any observer! It was us… and the sun and the spring breeze! We jumped and pranced until we got tired and then lay down on the grass and slept a few hours without having to worry. If you cannot bear to see these stealthy freedoms we breed for ourselves, then see it and burn. Taken by my dear husband.”
Yes, having a dream that one day they could walk through the streets or university dormitories with the wind blowing through their hair is something many women think of every day.
I totally agree that some women wear the hijab of their own volition (or to be more precise, I truly believe that they have been indoctrinated by the religion, Imams, fear of Islam, fear of Allah’s punishment, or empty promises of comfort in this life and afterlife), but this does not mean all women should be forced and ordered to wear this thick cloth over their bodies, which does not have any other purpose other than hurting oneself.
I remember my youngest sister, when she was 9 years old, would wake up almost everyday for several months in the middle of night having nightmares because her teacher and school’s Imam said that if they take of their hijab, that God has said they will be hung from their hair and tongue infinitely in Jahanam (hell) and that they will be burned over and over again for millions of years. What a merciful and lovely God (Allah) who does such things!
Don’t miss Phyllis Chesler on The Glazov Gang, where she discusses, The Burqa: A Sensory Deprivation-Isolation Chamber:
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