Freedom with no hijab: Masih Alinejad
Freedom with no hijab: Masih Alinejad
The Iranian journalist posted pictures of herself without a hijab. She started a movement of women – and men – who want to get back their freedom. Lucinda Homa Gray finds out more.
© Monir Tag
In one year, the Facebook ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ campaign - led by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad (who lives in exile) - has nearly a million likes. Also it won a human rights award from the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.
The aim is to stop the hijab law in Iran – this forces women to wear headscarves. It began when Alinejad put a photo of herself with no hijab in London on her Facebook page. She commented ‘Every time I run and feel the wind in my hair it makes me think of when my hair was a prisoner in the hands of the Iranian government.’
Many people replied: many women in Iran said they wanted the freedom that Alinejad now has. So she put another picture of herself, in Iran with no headscarf. Then many other Iranian women sent pictures and videos of themselves with no headscarf.
So far, there has been no punishment for the women. The government talked about Alinejad on state TV – they said she was raped because she wasn’t wearing a headscarf, that she is not a good person, she’s anti-revolutionary and Western governments support her. They tried to post photos and comments on her Facebook page supporting the hijab. But they have not been able to arrest her and stop the campaign.
The movement is growing. Women are now talking more about the hijab, how they have to wear it and how this affects their daily lives.
Last year, the police warned 3.6 million women in the streets about their hair and clothing. One woman says she had to let go of her daughter’s hand when the wind blew her headscarf off, and her daughter jumped into the road; another woman says she had to jump into a river to save her daughter and didn’t know if she should take off her clothes and headscarf.
Alinejad understands this. She comes from a traditional, religious family from the countryside. She had to wear the veil all the time from when she was a child. She is the first woman in several generations of her family to show her hair.
‘The veil was part of my identity, and it was not easy to take off. I had to fight with everybody [and] I was worried about what people would think. I didn’t want my mother to be upset. The hijab can be a sign of honour in the family.’
But she still felt shame after she left Iran. In 2011, Alinejad first appeared on television (on US federal government’s Voice of America) without her hair covered. ‘I’ll never forget that day. When I left the studio, I called my brother. He said, “you have been living so long for the good name of your family but you need to think about yourself.” Yes, my mother complained, but that was when I started to be myself on TV.’
Iranian women have had to wear the hijab for more than 30 years, so why the rebellion now?
The government owns all media in Iran. Alinejad believes that ‘through social media you cannot hide the other face of Iran. It lets all people discuss their rights.’ Some women choose to wear a hijab but think it shouldn’t be compulsory, because it creates tensions in society. And some men do not like it when the state says women must cover up because men have no self-control.
Alinejad asked men to wear the headscarf to show they agree with women. So many men have taken pictures with headscarves. ‘If more and more men join us, the government cannot keep us silent,’ she says.
She wrote a novel Taje-e-Khar (Crown of Thorns) about her private life. Now she wants to ‘bring all secrets into the media… empowering [Iranian] women to talk about everything they shouldn’t talk about – their body, their identity, themselves. When any individual woman has got the power to talk about herself, then no-one can hide her, no-one can oppress her or force her to be someone else.’
More information: Facebook.com/StealthyFreedom.
Lucinda Homa Gray is an Anglo-Iranian journalist from London living in Seattle. More of her writing: lucindahgray.com.
NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/columns/makingwaves/2015/07/01/making-waves-masih-alinejad/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).