It is against the law for women to appear in public in Iran without a headcovering. But not everyone agrees the government should dictate how women dress.
Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad created an online campaign where women share photos of themselves without a hijab, the traditional Muslim headcovering. Women have used the network to express their belief that covering their hair should be a personal choice, and now men are joining in solidarity.
Men have taken to posting on Instagram using #MeninHijab to protest the fact that their sisters, mothers and wives are forced to cover themselves in public while they are not.
In addition to the laws restricting how they can appear in public, women in Iran need their father’s permission to pursue an education. They can’t dance or sing solo, and can be stopped by police in public who are enforcing Islamic dress. The government frequently demonizes any spread of Western influence in the country, which has been isolated by years of international sanctions.
“Women in Iran are breaking the law every day just to be ourselves,” Alinejad said at an event in New York in April. “And I’m a master criminal because the government thinks I have too much hair, too much voice, and I am too much of a woman.”
Alinejad, who was required by her family to cover her hair when she reached age seven, began My Stealthy Freedom in 2014 by posting a photo of herself without a hijab on Facebook. Banned from Iran in 2009 for exposing corruption in Iranian parliament, she now lives in the U.S.
Before she had to leave the country, Alinejad protested the Iranian government by distributing leaflets and posting graffiti critical of the Islamic Republic. She was jailed for her activism when she was 19, while she was pregnant.
“We know that we don’t have freedom inside Iran, but when we don’t see the police around, we know how to take off our scarf and create a moment of freedom, like guilty pleasure, and in stealth,” Alinejad wrote on another hijab-less photo she posted.