Anti-Hijab movement in Iran | BY Tariq Aqil


Anti-Hijab movement in Iran

IT was in 1979 that the brutally repressive regime of Reza Shah Pehlvi, the despotic ruler of Iran, was finally toppled by the Islamic brigade headed by Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran witnessed a radical change and a complete shift from the westernized society of many decades to the strict austere new Islamic philosophy of the new Islamic order.

After more than 43 years of life under the Islamic Sharia it appears that winds of change are now blowing in Iran and the people are now prepared to face the wrath of their government and the morality police to defy the strict draconian dress code imposed on the female population of the country.

Mahsa Amini a young Kurdish girl of 22 years, was arrested by the morality police in Tehran. This young girl was a visitor to Tehran and was found guilty of revealing some of her hair.

She was sent to a reeducation camp to be coached in proper Islamic values and code of conduct and just a few days later died in police custody apparently due to police torture and physical abuse.

In the Islamic Law of Iran that was imposed shortly after the Islamic revolution in Iran, article 638 of the 5th book of Islamic Penal Code, called sanctions and deterrent penalties, women who do not wear the hijab may be imprisoned from ten days to two months, and or required to pay fines from 50,000 to 500,000 Rials.

All women in Iran, regardless of their nationality, are obliged to follow these rules, however, rules are not as strict for travellers and their unfamiliarity with hijab is taken into account. Women are required to wear hijab as soon as they get off the plane in an Iranian airport.

The death of Mahsa Amini ignited wide-spread protests and show of anger against the government and the protest movement was led mostly by women and young girls who showed their anger and resentment by removing their head coverings and even burning their hijabs in a collective show of anger and protest against the law of head covering mandated by the Islamic Sharia rules of the Iranian regime.

The government of Iran led by the ailing sick Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cracked down brutally resulting in many deaths by police firing, arrests and brutal repression.

The protest movement in Iran is gaining strength from day to day and it has now attracted the attention of international human rights groups and women’s organizations.

The central slogan of this movement is “Women, life freedom” whereas the central slogan of the 1979 revolution was mainly “Bread, work freedom” that was an inspiration from the communist revolutionary movement of Russia.

It is now clear that the central idea of this new movement is the autonomy of women, their freedom of choice and protection of their inherent rights.

This slogan comes from the Kurdish freedom movement, and is a result of decades of grassroots activities and efforts of Kurdish women in one of the most economically deprived regions of Iran, the Kurdish provinces.

The Kurdish women of Kurdistan and Turkey used this slogan for the first time. And Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the emancipatory Kurdish movement, in 1998 gave a very famous speech in which he said that women are basically the first captives in history and until they’re not liberated, any emancipatory movement, in fact, will be doomed to fail.

In the aftermath of Mahsa Amini’s brutal killing at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s hijab patrol, this particular slogan goes viral.

It first was chanted by those who attended her funeral in the city of Saqez, in Kurdistan. And then after that, in Sanandaj, another key, major Kurdish city in the west of Iran. And now you hear it really all over Iran.

The latest protest movement in Iran led by women and without any central political leadership appears to be nothing but the continuation and accumulation of all the sociopolitical, gender, ethnic, religious grievances and sufferings of the past.

It is definitely the result of religious extremism and enforced laws not compatible with human nature.

The nationwide protest movement that has challenged the dictatorial extremist regime is now in its 4th week and gaining strength to show the stark reality of Iranian society groaning under a collapsing economy, corruption, repression, social restrictions and all laws and regulations dictated by a group of aging Mullahs with no concept of the modern world or human rights.

This movement shows no signs of abating despite the cruel repressive actions of the government.

It is still too early to hope that the present movement could match the revolutionary fervour of 1979 but it is hoped that the sacrifices being offered by Iranian women will not go waste.

Iranian society will definitely be liberated from tyranny of despotic religious fanatics, it may not happen tomorrow but fingers crossed and hope for the best. Hats off to the brave Iranian women.

—The writer is Professor of History, based in Islamabad.


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