On March 7, 1979, the leaders of the Iranian government imposed upon the women of Iran the mandatory wearing of the hijab. The next day to the dismay of the government thousands of women across Iran protested the mandatory wearing of the hijab. These brave women protested for their freedom then and this continues today.
On December 27, 2017, Vida Movahed, climbed onto a telephone box on Revolution Avenue, in the busy central area of Tehran and waved her white head scarf . For some this was an unveiled display of courage but in Iran this crime is called Disturbing Public Security. After the Iranian Revolution swept across the country in 1979, the government passed a law requiring all women to wear a head scarf (hijab). Vida Movahed’s crime was that she wanted to silently protest the compulsory law requiring her to cover her head.
On January 29, 2018, Narges Hosseini also defied Iran’s hijab law and within ten minutes of uncovering her head and waving her head scarf she was arrested. She was released on $140,000 bail. Narges Hosseini’s trial began on Saturday, February 24th. Hosseini is charged with:
1. Encouraging Immorality or Prostitution
2. Failing to Observe Hijab
3. Flagrant Commitment of a Forbidden Act.
The Iranians have arrested over thirty-five “girls of Revolution Street” as this spontaneous movement has been called. But that has done little to stop other Iranian women from their protest. On February 22, 2018, Tehran Police had a barrier welded on the top of the telephone box on Revolution Avenue to prevent these protests. Instead other women moved down the street to another box, to a bench or other places to wage their protests. While the first couple women were released on bail, the Iranian government is using imprisonment in an attempt to quash these protests. Instead of releasing them on bail, Azam Jangroy, Maryam Shariatmadari, Shaparak Shajarizadeh and others have been imprisoned.
Shaparak Shajarizadeh is being held in solitary confinement in the appalling Shahr-e-Rey Prison as is Maryam Shariatmadari. Maryam Shariatmadari was standing on the top of the box when a police officer physically knocked her off the box. This resulted in a trip to the hospital before being jailed. Women’s human rights in Iran continue to be violated. Last year Dorsa Derakshani, an 18-year old chess grandmaster was banned from competing on the Iranian Chess Team after she competed in the Gilbraltar Chess Tournament with her hair uncovered.
I am reminded of another brave girl who didn’t want a government dictating how she dressed. Hala, was an Afghan teenager who witnessed the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Hala and her sister Sulima wrote a book entitled, “Behind the Burqa Our Life in Afghanistan and How We Escaped to Freedom.” In the book, Hala describes when she first heard on the radio that “Women are to wear hijab and burqa, by order of the Ministry for the Protection of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”
Hala and her sisters had enjoyed their fashion freedom and they were being required to wear a burqa. The Taliban also forbid them from wearing white socks, listening to music and attending school. Hala was a normal defiant teenager. She told me she liked wearing blue jeans, polo shirts and enjoyed school. Hala and her sisters began running a neighborhood school and initially declined to wear a burqa. Soon the Taliban was alerted and Hala’s choices were bleak. She might face imprisoned, acid attacks, or could even be killed to make an example of her. Instead she was forced to flee her country and flew into New York by herself where she requested political asylum.
Today a new generation of women are speaking out and protesting for their rights. These brave mothers and daughters, should be given the freedom to dress without a government forcing them to wear a head covering. So tomorrow as the world celebrates International Women’s Day we should celebrate these women for their bravery and courage. The unveiled girls of Revolution Street have become a symbol of freedom and those being held should be immediately released. For as Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”