Follow Us:

Iranians’ rising against Hijab, is it a time-reversal?

In Iran, there is an ongoing widespread protest against the ‘Mandatory Hijab’ law that has been in effect since the late 70s. People in huge numbers are out on the streets and women are cutting their hair and burning headscarves to register their protest.

Priyaranjan Kumar | New Delhi | Updated :

In Iran, there is an ongoing widespread protest against the ‘Mandatory Hijab’ law that has been in effect since the late 70s. People in huge numbers are out on the streets and women are cutting their hair and burning headscarves to register their protest.

According to media reports, more than 30 people have already died in a confrontation with the police, during various demonstrations. The incident that has triggered a nationwide campaign against the law mandating women to wear a headscarf is the death of a 22-year-old girl Mahsa Amini, which happened in police custody.

Why was Amini arrested?

Her only crime was not wearing the hijab properly. The morality police took her into custody and beat her brutally in a van, after which she went into a coma. However, the police and the government have denied the claims of any violence against her.

This is not the first time when a woman has been assaulted in Iran for not wearing a hijab properly. Many such cases have come to light, while many still are unreported. Women in Iran have been protesting against these cruelties, very now and then.

In April 2018, a woman, who had ‘improperly’ tied her hijab, was publicly thrashed by a female morality police officer, in Tehran. The incident was widely shared on social media and attracted international glare.

When was wearing Hijab made mandatory in Iran?

It is worth noting that after the Iranian Revolution in 1979 (also known as the Islamic Revolution), a law was passed for women to dress as dictated by Sharia. After this, it became mandatory for women to wear burqa, as well as wearing a headscarf or hijab. But, before the Islamic revolution, under the rule of Mohammed Raza Shal Pahlavi, there were many social reforms that anchored the liberty of women.

An interesting image depicting protestors holding up images of Khomeini
Image Source: Twitter/Iranian Revolution 1979

 

It is disheartening to witness the regression of Iranian society in general and how the living standard has diminished for Iranian women in particular. Pictures and videos from before the Islamic revolution in Iran depict women dressing freely while the actual scenes nowadays are a complete contrast.

We highlight the changes that came into their lives over the period of time and how they were forced to dress according to Islamic traditions.

Reza Shah and Modernization of Iran

At the end of the 19th century landowners, merchants, intellectuals and Shia clerics had a significant influence on Iranian society. They came together in the constitutional revolution but failed to overthrow the Qajar regime.

However, this revolution led to the rise of General Reza Khan, the commander of the elite Persian Cossack Brigade (also the founder of the Pahlavi Dynasty). In 1925, with the help of the United Kingdom, he came into power and established a constitutional monarchy.

Reza Shah was heavily influenced by the UK and USA. Years after reigning in Iran, he introduced a lot of social, economic, and political reforms.

He replaced Islamic laws with the western laws of modern times. He even voiced for establishing proper human rights and an effective democracy.

He put a ban on Islamic clothing, separation of the sexes, and veiling of women’s faces with hijab or burqa. Reza Shah was so committed towards these reforms that in 1936, he implemented Kashf-e-Hijab.

That is, if a woman wears a hijab, the police have the right to remove it. Behind all this reform, his major aim was to weaken the influence of conservatives in society, who collectively supported the traditional belief system.

Women wearing skirt the use of the chador was banned throughout Iran in 1936
Women wearing skirt, the use of the chador was banned throughout Iran in 1936 (Image Source: Twitter)

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi and White Revolution

Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi was the son of Reza shah. He overtook the throne in 1941. He was also greatly influenced by western culture. He supported equal rights for women and took many important decisions to improve their condition. He prohibited Kashf-e-Hijab and allowed women to dress according to their will.

For aggressive modernisation of the country, he launched the ‘White Revolution’ in 1963 giving women the right to vote which resulted in women being also elected to the Parliament.

In 1967, Iran’s personal law was also reformed in which women got equal rights. The age of marriage for girls was also raised from 13 to 18 years and abortion was also made legal.

Emphasis was laid on increasing the participation of girls in studies. By the 1970s, the share of girls in Iran’s universities was 30%. This revolution however ended in 1978.

Women studying in their choice of dress in Pre Iranian Revolution 1979
Women studying in their choice of dress in Pre Iranian Revolution 1979 (Image Source:Twitter)

 

All these reforms were introduced to uplift the weaker sections of society and weaken the supporters of traditional belief systems and traditional rulers such as intellectuals, landlords, merchants, clerics, etc. It paved the way for the Islamic Revolution as the economy collapsed and scholars and the urban working class started opposing.

Rise of Conservatives and Islamic law

Shiite religious leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini opposed these policies of Shah. He became a prominent face in opposition to the White Revolution in 1963. He was arrested two times and sent into exile for 15 years.

Away from the public view, Khomeini preached the idea of the Islamic Republic, sharia law, and the idea of an Islamic government through books and cassettes.

In 1978, under his leadership, two million people gathered at Shahyad Chowk, in Tehran to protest against Shah. Interestingly, women in large numbers also took an active part in this revolution.

During the period from 1975 to 1980, the Chador or Burqa was used as a symbol of resistance against the Shah's regime by female in the Revolution
During the period from 1975 to 1980, the Chador or Burqa was used as a symbol of resistance against the Shah’s regime by female in the Revolution (Image Source: Twitter)

 

In 1979, fearing execution, Shah Reza Pahlavi fled the country and Iran became the Islamic Republic. Khomeini was made the Supreme Leader of Iran and the country became a Shia stronghold of the Islamic world. Women’s rights were plundered at the onset of the Khomeini regime.

In 1981, the use of cosmetic products was banned, and wearing the hijab became mandatory. Religious police began removing women’s lipstick with razor blades. The Islamic government abolished the reforms of the Family Protection Law of 1967 and the age of marriage for girls was reduced from 18 years to 9 years.