A protest being carried out by women in Iran has recently attracted some attention from the internet.
New York Times columnist and feminist author Mona Eltahawy tweeted that six women were arrested on Monday for removing their hijabs in public and waving them around on a stick.
According to HuffPost, the Iranian government passed and has enforced rules mandating hijabs since 1979.
The recent protests were inspired after a woman was arrested for doing the same thing on top of a utility box in December. She was later identified as Vida Movahed, 31. She has since inspired a hashtag that translates to “the girl of Enghelab Street,” referencing the name of the street where she was arrested. Several Iranians, men and women, have changed their social media to reflect support for her protest.
“Her message is clear, girls and women are fed up with forced [hijab],” explained human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. “Let women decide themselves about their own body.”
Since then, several women have taken it upon themselves to do the same.
According to Eltahawy, one of the arrested women explained her motivation for joining the protests.
“I took my scarf off because I’m tired of our government telling me what to do with my body,” she said.
This is not the first time Iranian women have pushed back on the mandatory rules. The Guardian reported in July that an increasing number of women stopped wearing their hijabs while in cars as it is not immediately clear whether or not the inside of a vehicle counts as a “public space.” Despite this, police have made an effort to pull women without headscarves over, fine them or, in some cases, seize their vehicles.
“The police can’t do something and say I’m doing this because God said so. That’s not a police [officer]’s business,” argued Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has been described as a moderate, in 2015.
Despite this and similar beliefs held by many citizens, the judicial wing of the country pushed back. Hadi Sadeghi, the deputy head of Iran’s judiciary chief, said in 2017, “The invisible part of the car, such as the trunk, is a private space, but this does not apply to the visible parts of the car.”
As the protests continue, several on the internet sought to explain the impact of such actions to those who might be unfamiliar.
“History will honour these remarkably brace women as it honours Rosa Parks,” observed historian Ramachandra Guha.
At least one advocate expressed concerns about the way the protests could be taken advantage of by those outside of the culture trying to push separate agendas.
As noted by Professor Negar Mottahedeh of Duke University, this is not the first time Iranian women have protested the hijab.