LONDON – Dozens of women in Iran are flouting state-imposed dress rules with online, often anonymous photographs showing them dropping their headscarf for a moment.
In only 10 days, a Facebook page titled “Stealthy Freedoms of Women in Iran” has received more than 100 such photos and 146,000 expressions of support.
The page’s organizers say they want to fuel debate on the government-mandated hijab head-covering, which is often enforced by local militias with beatings or detention for women suspected of following loose Western ways.
“This is me committing a crime,” wrote a girl who posted an image of herself sitting in the middle of a secluded road in Nour Forest in northern Iran, her headscarf dropped onto her shoulder. “Covertly, but in absolute peace,” she added.
The Facebook campaign has yet to provoke an official response from Iranian authorities.
The hijab requires women to cover their hair and all of their body in shapeless clothing while in public, generally leaving only their face, hands and ankles visible. It has become a defining feature of Iran’s interpretation of Islamic principles since the 1979 revolution.
The photos show women posing bare-headed in the countryside, suburbs, by the sea and even in cities.
One shows a grandmother, a mother and her daughter together.
“In one frame, three generations secure freedom at a corner of this street,” reads the caption. “Here’s hoping the day comes when the next generation can exercise its most basic right, before their hair goes gray.”
Liberals and hardliners have long jostled and provoked each other over the state-mandated dress code. A dedicated morality police hands out fines or verbal warnings and can arrest women it considers are flouting the rules.
The unit has reportedly been ordered to exercise more restraint since President Hassan Rouhani — a self-declared moderate — took office in August, promising the nation greater social freedoms.