Mandatory modesty

Video of woman being attacked by morality police over loose hijab rattles people in Iran and beyond

Iranian women wearing hijab walk down a street in the capital Tehran. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Video of women officers from Iran’s morality police force attacking a young woman for wearing a headscarf that only loosely covered her hair has gone viral in Iran and around the world, sparking debate on modesty laws that women increasingly condemn as overbearing and unnecessary. In the video, a young woman with a red headscarf can be seen being grabbed by the throat and thrown to the ground by three morality officers dressed in black full-body chadors. At one point, the woman could be heard shouting in distress: “Why are you hitting me? You have been destroying us for 30 years.”

The video went viral on social media after it was posted by Masih Alinejad, a WITW contributor who famously founded the My Stealthy Freedom and White Wednesday movements, in which Iranian women share videos of themselves removing their hijabs and wear white headscarves as a silent symbol of protest. While conservatives have bemoaned women wearing their hijabs loosely for only technically meeting the requirements of the law, public outcry over the video prompted condemnation from Iranian politicians. Reformist lawmaker Tayebeh Siavoshi said that the policewoman seen grabbing the young woman by the throat had been suspended pending an investigation. President Rouhani also publicly addressed the issue, declaring that “grabbing people’s collars to promote virtue will not work.”

More conservative voices, however, have suggested that the video was fabricated by Alinejad, who they have accused of being a tool of the U.S. government — and worse. In the streets, however, women were more than willing to publicly speak to The Associated Press about their disillusionment with the country’s modesty laws.

“I think everyone must be free to choose what they believe in and we can deal with each other more peacefully instead of trying to induce people to do what you think is right,” said Sahar, a 25-year-old university student. “This method surely will not work.”

Women have increasingly been protesting the mandatory garment since an Iranian woman was arrested in late December for taking off her white hijab in public, climbing on top of a telephone box, and waving her hijab on the end of a stick like a flag. As a growing number of women followed in her footsteps to protest, 29 women were arrested in Tehran for removing their hijabs in early February. By March, Iran police began cracking down still harder on protestors, and reportedly publicly beat and arrested more than 35 women — utilizing solitary confinement and threats of prison sentences of up to 10 years for “inciting corruption and prostitution” to convince women at large to abandon the protests.

Watch the video of morality police attacking the woman over her loose hijab below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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