Women in Iran are now chopping off their hair and dressing up as men all in order to avoid the theocratic state’s morality police. In response to public discontent over compulsory hijab laws, Iran’s governing mullahs are reinforcing legislation aimed at punishing women for violating Islamic “immodesty” customs. As a result, Iranian women have resorted to extreme measures to evade persecution. Many women no longer feel safe roaming the streets without pretending to be men.
This week alone, eight Iranian models were taken into custody after the morality police determined that the women were improperly veiled or not veiled at all. Authorities labeled this disobedience as “vulgar.”
Iran’s government has even taken this war against women online. The Daily Beast’s Maajid Nawaz explains:
Welcome to Operation Spider 2. Yes, Iran’s War Against Hair even has a code name. In a sting led by no less significant a unit than Iran’s cybercrimes division, eight other models were arrested and charged with “promoting western promiscuity.” State prosecutor for cybercrimes Javad Babaei confirmed that his unit was focused on Instagram and is concerned with “sterilizing popular cyberspaces.” Many of the country’s leading models have reportedly suffered this clampdown. They are accused of promoting "immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity.” Another state prosecutor warned the nation’s women, “If you take part in vulgar sessions, we will publicly announce your names.”
Many women have chosen to shut down all social media activity, fearing retribution from the state.
This sort of savage religious fanaticism and theocratic tyranny is enforced by vigilante "morality police" sanctioned by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader. Under the patronage of sexually-repressed clerics, Basij paramilitary militias systematically target men with “homosexual” and “devil worshipping” hairstyles, imprison religious minorities for not properly recognizing Shia-Islamic superiority, and harass women for sartorial infractions.
“Such is the Iranian theocracy’s fascination with female hair, that even elected officials have not been spared by the morality police,” notes Nawaz. “The drug that dogmatic ideologues are usually addicted to is control, and the thirst for control almost always manifests itself in sexual control.”
Sometimes, women who fail to wear the veil properly have acid thrown in their faces by over-zealous men keen on maintaining the status quo. Acid attacks in Isfahan, Iran have disfigured innumerable women. For these forgotten women, the physical and emotional scars will never heal. If ever there was a consistent consumer for hijabs, it would be here. While it may be a “choice” in the West (see: Stockholm Syndrome), threats of physical abuse and intimidation ensure that women in Iran and other patriarchal societies will always find time to buy a hijab.
As the 2009 Green Movement proves, Iranians feel suffocated by Khomeini-inspired mandates. While the movement was mercilessly suppressed, leaving the bodies of Iranian feminist activists and democratically-minded students in its wake, women in the country still yearn from freedom.
With the odds stacked against them, Iranian feminist movements like “My Stealthy Freedom” fight against the oppressor, risking life and limb to promote the novel idea that perhaps, women should be free to wear what they want. According to the group’s website:
My Stealthy Freedom is an online social movement that was started by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on May 3, 2014. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 women in Iran have had to cover their hair in public, but many Iranian women and men feel that wearing a hijab in public should be a personal choice.
To address this issue we created a Facebook page where women from inside Iran could share photos of themselves not wearing their hijabs. Our website is a living archive of the photos and videos shared with us by these brave women...