Changemakers

Women in Iran post videos online of themselves walking in public with their heads uncovered

Some Iranian women are defying cultural norms by removing their hijabs in public — and filming it

When journalist Masih Alinejad started the Facebook page, ‘ My Stealthy Freedom,’ last year, she had no idea that the expressionistic movement would gain so much momentum. The page features photos taken by Iranian women as they ‘stealthily’ discard their hijabs in public. Since its inception last year, it has amassed more that 770,000 followers who comment frequently on featured posts and also share the images to promote engagement and traffic.

In Iran, under Islamic law, it is illegal for a woman to leave her house without donning the headscarf. Now, women in the country have amplified the hijab photo campaign by going a step further; a contingent of them are now filming themselves walking on the streets of Tehran in broad daylight with their heads uncovered, according to a report in the The Independent. Watch video below or click here to view it.

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A 2014 story by The Independent that chronicled the genesis of the movement portrayed it as being about women exercising individual freedom against enforced and ultra-conservative legislations. It shows and details several examples of photos that turned up on the page. One of the images on Facebook, showing a woman driving in Iran without wearing a hijab, was captioned: “Hijab is being forced on women not only by the Morality Police, but also out of consideration for family, through wanting to keep a job and because of fear of judgment from others.”

Another image had a simpler, albeit blunt, message: “I loathe the hijab. I too like the feel of the sun and the wind on my hair. Is this a big sin?”

While these public displays are often an effort to uphold a few moments of freedom or to protest against the lack of freedom associated with wearing the hijab, the video medium adds a whole new dimension: men’s reactions to the sight.

One woman described her experience in a positive light. “Don’t be scared of men. They didn’t attack me or insult me. They smiled at me to show they support me. They stand with us,” she said.

These reactions are a stark contrast to the narrative and propaganda usually heard from the Iranian government. A draft law, called the ‘Plan on Protection of Promoters of Virtue and Vice’ was originally approved by the parliament in December and called for greater power to be given to Iran’s morality police and ‘Basji’ or volunteer militia to crack down on the dress code of women. It was later rejected on grounds that it “contradicted the constitution.”

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Journalist Masih Alinejad who spearheaded the ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ movement

The ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ page is a new and vital instrument to continue to counteract this sexist discrimination and Alinejad said she hopes that these shared experiences will spearhead a larger mission. She hopes that she can expand to include female politicians who can use their position in Iran to address women’s rights issues. “We only have Facebook, social media and our words to each other while the Government has guns, bullets and power. This is not a fair war,” she said.

Watch the “How Hip Is Your Hijab” discussion from our 2014 Women in the World Summit:

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