The Iranian #notohijab – No to Hijab Protest

Activists in Iran have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest what they call outdated and draconian laws banning women from being in public without a hijab. A hijab is often considered the headscarf worn by women that covers her hair, neck, and some of her face. However, according to Muslim tradition, it’s more than merely the headscarf, but also the entire dress code itself. Whilst the hijab is intended to ‘protect the modesty of women’, but in the modern age, it’s considered a holdover from an ancient time that many young men and women in Iran are trying to get overturned.

There are actually two types of hijab. One involves the spiritual, what a woman believes about and toward God and lives her life accordingly, and the clothes that she wears. Under Sharia Law, women in the country must disguise their figures with loose-fitting clothing and cover their hair. Violating the law could result in public shaming, a fine, or even arrest. In recent years, though, protests have erupted throughout the country regarding Iran’s hardline government, oppression, economic hardships, and laws like this one.

On July 12, Iran celebrated the ‘National Day of Hijab and Chastity’ which activists used as an excuse to rally on social media and on the streets to encourage women to remove their hijabs in public. A bold move which could have been met with significant pushback from government forces, including arrests.

The Implementation and Enforcement of Sharia Law in Iran

Following the Iranian revolution of 1979, the nation’s new hardline rulers imposed Sharia Law and it has been in place ever since. However, they have struggled -especially in recent years- to maintain order and enforce a number of its laws.
Sharia Law is based on the Islamic religion and is largely enforced by clerical rulers, who have watched younger generations become emboldened, with women wearing tighter-fitting clothing, and also pushing back their headscarves to expose more and more hair. It’s been a slow, steady, and deliberate drive to do away with what more young Iranians consider to be outdated and oppressive rules and laws.

Yet, it’s not merely young women throwing off the hijab (in a manner of speaking), but in fact almost all age groups who appear to have grown weary with the status quo and laws as they remain today. Whether this generational support to eliminate the hijab law is due to feelings of oppression or the frustration more Iranian citizens experience with rampant poverty, inflation, and isolation from the world isn’t entirely clear. It may very well be a combination of these factors.

Activists pushing back against government hardliners claim that the ‘National Day of Hijab and Chastity’ was designed only to target women and drive forth more repression and repressive ideologies. Numerous women’s rights activists in Iran released a joint statement in response to this political move and said, “The National Day of Hijab and Chastity is only an excuse to target women and launch a new wave of repression against Iranian people and in particular women.”

A Bold Move

Although independent news agencies have been unable to verify videos of women removing their hijabs in public (to determine whether they were actually in Iran or outside the country), it’s believed that at least some regions saw several women defying the clerical authority in the country.

The hashtag #notohijab trended on social media during the protest. Fars news agency, a semi-official media outlet in Iran claimed there had been several arrests during the July 12th protest. These protests represent the dissatisfaction of citizens who are tired of the oppression, weary of the dire economic situations and frustrated by the government’s concern over meddling in foreign affairs and sending money to its Quds Forces in Iraq and beyond while teachers, retirees, and others struggle to provide for their families. According to one self-identified former government official, “This [the National Day] is like pouring fuel on [a] fire. People are already angry because of high inflation and rising prices. They are very frustrated.”

The Fars news agency claimed that within the Persian Twitter accounts, the notable hashtag had little traction. They also claimed that most of the Twitter accounts associated with the protest and hashtag push (along with videos of women tossing off their hijab) originated in the U.S. and other Western states.
From outside the borders, it’s difficult to determine what’s true and the government narrative. But with accounts of growing discord and protests by teachers, retirees, and others frustrated by the direction Iran is heading, it’s clear that the people are quickly approaching a boiling point.

While it’s unlikely that the hijab protests are going to bring about change, it demonstrates the growing frustration of the Iranian people towards the regime. For today, though, it’s a reminder to the rest of the world that oppression in Iran continues to reign supreme. Whether there will be an end to it anytime soon remains to be seen.

Tags : Iran