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Grand unveiling: Iranian women protest hardliners’ enforcement of hijab-wearing

Iranian authorities’ stepped-up efforts to enforce hijab compliance have been met with protests on the part of Iranian rights activists who urged women to publicly remove their veils on “National Day of Hijab and Chastity” on Tuesday, thus risking arrest for defying the Islamic dress code.

The hardline rulers’ crackdown on “immoral behaviour” is part of a broader clampdown on dissent aggravated by deepening economic hardship coupled with growing Western pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.

Tomorrow Iranian women will shake the clerical regime by removing their hijab and taking to the streets across Iran to say #No2Hijab. This is called Women Revolution.
In iran #WalkingUnveiled is a crime.
Iranian men will also join us.#حجاب_بی_حجاب

— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 12, 2022

To ensure “moral behaviour”, Iran imposed the Islamic Sharia law after doing away with the Shah in the 1979 revolution. From then on, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. If caught redhanded at an instance of negligence, women face public rebuke, fines or arrest.

As we promised!

We remove our hijabs and I hope everyone joins us.
Forcing women to wear hijab is not part of Iranian’s culture. It is the culture of Taliban, ISIS and Islamic Republic. Enough is enough.

— Masih Alinejad 🏳️ (@AlinejadMasih) July 12, 2022

Years have passed since the overthrow of the US-backed monarch and clerical rulers have been increasingly struggling to enforce the law. Today women of all ages hailing from all walks of life and backgrounds are more and more often wearing tight-fitting, thigh-length coats and brightly coloured scarves pushed back to defiantly expose their hairstyle.

As the state holds the “National Day of Hijab and Chastity” countrywide, rights activists have slammed the move and called on women to remove their veils.

We, Iranian women are going to the streets to protest the mandatory hijab on July 12, and for this movement we need international support and visibility in the world. Please support us. #حجاب_بی_حجاب #no2hijab

— meri (@nimalover1) July 7, 2022

“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 joint Monday statement by dozens of prominent women’s rights activists reads.

Accompanying numerous videos of women removing their veils while walking in the streets or resisting the morality police, the hashtag #No2Hijab has been widely distributed on social media for days by Iranians outside and inside the country. The authenticity of the videos could not be verified.

“I should have the right to decide what I want to wear and not be imprisoned because of my choice. #No2Hijab,” tweeted a female user.

The campaign won support of men as well as women who decided to hold on to their veils.

“I don’t have a veil to remove. But I will come to the street to support and defend the women and girls of my land. #No2Hijab,” @mashmolak tweeted.

There were “serious concerns over more potential violence and detentions on July 12”, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) said on Monday. This was confirmed by Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency which said several people were arrested on the day.

But the #No2Hijab campaign is not the first such popular expression of discontent from not just the female part of the Iranian society. It constitutes an episode in months-long protests by teachers, retirees, workers and government employees over unpaid wages, low pensions and also against sky-rocketing food prices.

“This is like pouring fuel on fire. People are already angry because of high inflation and rising prices. They are very frustrated,” said a former Iranian government official. “Coercion has never worked.”

These developments have hurt the establishment’s legitimacy with protesters who are calling for political change.

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