The image of 29-year-old Kajal is a striking one: She stands in front of a historic site with her arms crossed in front of her, wearing a white coat with a white bag slung over her shoulder as a cellphone hangs from its strap. Her eyes are obscured by dark, almond-shape sunglass lenses. Her hair is buzzed short, almost like a military service member’s might be. Standing next to Kajal is a woman completely shrouded in black. This is the apparent choice for women who venture out into public in Iran: Adhere to the compulsory headscarf mandate, go out in public without a hijab and risk facing the “morality police” or cut your hair short and dress like a man to avoid a run-in with the long arm of the law.
Kajal is one woman who opts for the manly look in order to move about freely and not wear a hijab. This photo turned up last week on the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page with a caption that reads, according to a translation, “I would like to tell the woman standing next to me that even though there is no trace of us on the wall behind us, I would still like to hold your hand in peace.”
Kajal spoke out in a Q&A interview with The Independent about her decision to nearly shave her head and dress with a masculine look. She said she’s been dressing “like a boy” since childhood “to feel free and strong” because girls around the world are made to feel weaker and less-free than boys. The decision, she said, stemmed from an incident during her youth in which she was arrested along with some friends for attending a mixed-gender party — a huge no-no in Iran, where just last week dozens of college students were rounded up and lashed 99 times for having attended a mixed-gender graduation party.
“Hijab tells women you are beautiful and if you show any of your beauty it will be a sexual temptation for men,” Kajal said in response to a question about whether the hijab is oppressive. “So to safeguard the moral health of society you have to cover your hair. This complete sexual take on a part of my body that has no sensual temptation is very disturbing to me,” she said.
Kajal touches on several other related topics including what happened when she had a run-in with a morality police office, and she goes on to list the six freedoms she hopes women in Iran will one day enjoy during her lifetime.
Read the full interview at The Independent.