Striking photographs have surfaced across social media of men in Iran wearing hijabs, in protest of the country’s headscarf law requiring women to veil their heads in public.
Local journalist Masih Alinejad, behind the website “My Stealthy Freedom,” launched the social campaign as a response to the so-called Gashte Ershad, or “guidance patrol,” who reportedly can arrest women who don’t adopt conservative Islamic dress code. The new hashtag #MenInHijab has gone viral, inviting men to engage and work to change the laws as well. The site’s Facebook page now has over a million likes.
Currently in Iran, women who defy the country’s strict morality laws are branded as dishonourable, facing fines or imprisonment. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Alinejad noted the backlash this new wave of activism has engendered: “People outside of Iran have reacted [to the campaign] by saying ‘you’re ruining the face of Islam’ or ‘Islam doesn’t actually force anyone to wear a hijab.’ We have to educate them. In Iran, it’s compulsory. In some other countries [wearing a hijab is] just a cultural norm,” she said.
But support for the movement has been equally as strong: “Most of these men are living inside Iran and they have witnessed how their female relatives have been suffering at the hands of the morality police and humiliation of enforced hijab,” she told the Independent, having already received 30 images of men wearing hijab in July.
The campaign comes at a time when all eyes are on the Middle Eastern nation, as it is only recently that the UN-imposed economic sanctions on it were lifted. Whether #MenInHijab will change the morality laws remains to be seen, but it is a powerful call for a new culture in Iran.