Iran is on blazing fire right now as anti-hijab protests sweep the country over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. The so-called ‘morality police’ detained her for not wearing her hijab appropriately. She died later in Tehran hospital. The police claimed that she died of a sudden heart attack but the eyewitnesses claim they saw police beating her up inside a van. There were reports that police beat her with a baton and banged her head against one of their vehicles.
Since then, thousands of women have taken to the streets to protest against the morality police. Protests sparked by her death are raging in the province of Kurdistan and Tehran as well as cities such as Rasht and Isfahan. Qom, one of Iran’s most religiously conservative cities, is protesting! Many Tehran university students gathered in protest, demanding an investigation into the death of Mahsa Amini and the dissolving of the morality police.
During the past week, women have been at the forefront of many of the demonstrations and protests. They are cutting their hair and shaving their heads, and burning their headscarves against the strict hijab law. In Tehran women were seen taking off their headscarves and shouting “death to the dictator” and “justice, liberty, no to mandatory hijab“.
HIJAB AND THE ISLAMIC REVOLUTION
The hijab is a headscarf worn by Muslim women. It became mandatory in Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Laws regulating women’s behavior and restricting their participation in public life became a hallmark of this regime. Female liberation was presented as a force of western culture. Control of the female body is not just a matter of policy of the government. It is existential to the Islamic Republic and fundamental to its founding ideology.
For months before Amini’s arrest and death, women had been protesting silently through hashtags on social media. They are posting videos of themselves walking with their heads uncovered or being harassed on the streets. In the weeks before Amini’s arrest for failing to correctly wear the hijab, the authorities had carried out many arrests, beatings, and forced public confessions of women. The authorities even announced that they would aggressively crack down on what they consider violations of hijab rules (requiring modest dress). These rules range from showing hair to wearing ‘bad makeup.’
WHO DECIDES FOR WOMEN?
These are protests against the compulsory hijab in the country, forcing and controlling women. They even have support from the women who choose to wear it, but they don’t agree with the compulsory hijab rules. They disagree with the violence that is being used to enforce it. This is called a matter of choice which clearly many don’t seem to understand.
These protests echo the decades of resistance and trauma endured by women against the hijab’s use as a tool of repression since its imposition. This struggle is interlinked with similar struggles for women’s liberation and their rights globally. Whether it be fighting for the right to abortion in the United States or the freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia, women are left with no other option but to rise and come on the streets to protest. Mahsa Amini’s death was probably the last straw.
TO WEAR HIJAB OR NOT should not be a concern to any state, government, or any man. No government should have a say on how a woman should or should not dress. It’s time for governments across the globe to stop having opinions on female bodies and enforcing them forcefully.
“DO NOT MISTAKE MY SILENCE FOR IGNORANCE, MY CALMNESS FOR ACCEPTANCE, AND MY KINDNESS FOR WEAKNESS.”
-By SHOBHITA GULATI