Women’s rights activists call for protest against hijab amid crackdown

Iranian authorities are cracking down hard on “women wearing the wrong hijab” and will hold a “hijab rally” on Tuesday, but activists have their own plans to protest.

President Ebrahim Raisi on Wednesday called the disregard for hijab rules an “organized promotion of [moral] Corruption in Islamic Society” and ordered all government entities to strictly enforce a “chastity and hijab” law drafted in 2005 by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution.

The authorities have also launched this year a vast campaign against women they call “bad-hijab”. In addition to crackdowns by the “morality police” on the streets, some officials have ordered additional measuresincluding to government offices, banks and public transport authorities to refuse to serve “bad-hijab” women.

In recent weeks, authorities have also close some businesses such as cafes and restaurants and detained their female customers for “inappropriate hijab” and nature tourists arrested for flouting their hijab, dancing and drinking in the depths of the northern forests.

In the jargon of religious and political extremists, women who do not want to wear the hijab and flaunt their displeasure by wearing small, colorful headscarves with short, tight dresses are called “bad hijab”.

Meanwhile, authorities have designated July 12 this year as Hijab and Chastity Day and are planning rallies in stadiums and other venues to honor, celebrate and promote the Islamic notion of hijab (covering) for women.

But women’s rights activists say forcing women to follow a certain dress code is a violation of their human rights. In response to the government’s plans, they called on women to take action against compulsory hijab on July 12, to lay their headscarves in the streets and other public places. The campaign has been dubbed the “NO2Hijab” campaign.

The first woman who, in December 2017, took off her headscarf in a busy street in protest. She was then imprisoned.

Activists are also urging men to support the women’s movement by accompanying their wives and daughters on the streets when they protest or by posting videos on social media.

Mehdi Hajati, political activist, in a tweet on Tuesday supported the “No2Hijab” movement. The movement is led by those who are belittled by hijab rules and will succeed if the protests continue. “Those [who try to enforce hijab rules] will eventually wear out [by our protests],” he wrote. Hajati, a former Shiraz city council member, was expelled from the council in 2018 and arrested for speaking out against the arrest of two members of the persecuted Baha’i minority.

The anti-hijab social media campaign was again led by American activist Masih Alinejad, who has spearheaded several social media campaigns against compulsory hijab over the past decade.

“Many of us remember this fear when we were first arrested by the vice squad. No other government in the world, not even North Korea, terrorizes women because their hair is visible. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a gender apartheid state,” Alinejad tweeted on Friday with a photo of two women in a “morals police” van screaming in horror.

In 2012, Alinejad launched the “Stealthy Freedoms” Campaign, which invited women to share photos of themselves without the hijab. She continues her campaign with “White Wednesdays” in 2017 that encouraged women to wear white headscarves or take them off to protest menstruation every Wednesday. Both campaigns have become very popular on social media.