Brave Iranian women continue to fight oppressive gender laws


Rules on ‘Islamic dress’ for women are enforced by police in Iran. In this picture, two policewomen warn a woman (centre) about her hair and clothing during a crackdown on skirting of the law in 2007. Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

Most of us believe in religious freedom but few of us would support a religious legal system of government. In Iran the government has removed people’s freedom to practice or not practice the religion or non-religion of their choice and instead forces them to adhere to one religion’s rules in a totalitarian manner.

Iranian MPs - before & after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

Iranian MPs – before & after the Islamic revolution of 1979.

When any religion uses force or coercion to keep and control its members it has more in common with a cult than it does a religion.Personal choice is something that we take for granted here in the West and we women must never forget how hard other generations of women fought for us here in New Zealand to enjoy the freedoms we have today. Women in Iran used to have freedom but it was taken away from them. They now are fighting a very difficult fight to regain even the most basic of rights, such as the right to feel the wind through their hair.

Women in Iran are cutting their hair short and dressing as men in a bid to bypass state ‘morality’ police who rigorously enforce penalties for not wearing a hijab.

…The hijab is becoming an increasingly contentious issue in Iran as women step up their campaign against it and other oppressive, gendered laws. In recent months, women have been filmed walking through Tehran with their hair uncovered and activists have urged Western tourists to violate laws by refusing to wear the hijab during their visits to the Islamic republic.
But the response from authorities to this resistance has been severe.

A politician was disqualified from Iranian parliament after photos purporting to show her in public without a headscarf emerged, despite her insistence they were fake.

This week, eight models were reportedly detained for posting “vulgar” pictures on social media with their hair uncovered. One was pictured apparently making a public apology on state TV.

Fearing similar repercussions, many women have now made their profiles private.

In a photo that provoked a particularly strong reaction on Instagram, a woman took a selfie while driving in her car with short hair, without a hijab on, as a man on a scooter rode past.

In another, a girl appears with short hair and wearing a shirt and jeans. The caption next to the picture reads: “I am an Iranian girl. In order to avoid the morality police, I decided to cut my hair short and wear men’s clothes so that I can freely walk in the streets in Iran.”
The issue of compulsory hijab is also being raised by men.

On 14 May, Pejman Rahbar, an Iranian sports journalist, shared a picture of a girl who had dressed up as a man to attend a football match alongside a picture of a male coach.

In a translation obtained by The Independent, he wrote: “Abdollah Veysi trains a team in one of the least developed areas in Iran’s Khuzestan province and he has managed to lead his team to championship through his tireless efforts.”I am peeking at the tears of joy coming from this instructor as well as the determined-looking girl that I see, browsing through her phone.
“These two people are actually very akin to one another. The two are champions and have both celebrated their victory in their own way.

“These two different people have encouraged their team the same way and shown the same enthusiasm for their own victory. The efforts of the girl, who had hidden her gender by donning the colours of her team, were very much worth seeing though.”
Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist, has shared some of the images on her My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page.

Now based in New York, she launched her campaign against compulsory hijab-wearing two years ago. It has almost a million followers.

Highlighting the image of the woman driving, she said it summed up the defiance demonstrated by many women who are fighting to live their lives freely.

“Some girls in Iran would rather secretly dress as men to avoid the compulsory hijab and the morality police,” she said. “So that is why they make their hair short in order to look like a boy and dress like a boy.

“It shows that although the Government arrests women who post their photos without headscarves, women are not afraid and they are following their own lifestyle.

“The Government wants to create fear but women have found their own way to freely walk in the streets of Iran or drive without covering their heads. It is a serious cultural war between two lifestyles. For women, their hair is their identity and making it short to just avoid the morality police is really heartbreaking, but in a way, it is brave.

“The head scarf issue often features prominently in the constant tug of war between hard-liners and Iran’s youth society. Iran’s laws require that all women, from the age of seven when they start school, cover their hair out of a traditional respect for culture and morality. But so far, Iranian women are brave to break this discriminatory law.”

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has taken a more progressive stance than his predecessors on the hijab, which has been compulsory for women since 1979.

But he has little power to stop those enforcing dress codes and when confronted with pictures from Ms Alinejad’s website last year, he would only say those living in Iran “should abide by the laws of the country”.

Iran is not the only country that has gone backwards when it comes to women’s rights. Afghanistan judging by these photos is even worse.


The good news is that some husbands in Iran are showing their support for female equality on facebook and are sending supportive images to Masih Alinejad, the Iranian journalist now living in the US, and creator of the “My Stealthy Freedom” Facebook page. The page was created to champion women’s rights in Iran – and specifically to circulate pictures of Iranian women taking off the mandatory headscarf.



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  • Martin

    I was talking to an Iranian guy the other day who told me Iran has terrible problems with crack and heroin addiction as well as corruption. He painted a pretty bleak picture of the once mighty Persia, a country I would love to visit if I could be sure I want on a totalitarian paedophile deathcult watch list.

  • Jman

    The same is happening in other parts of the Islamic world. Take a look at these photos from Cairo University in Egypt. The first is from 1978 where all of the woman have their hair uncovered. The second is from 2004 where every one of them has their head covered. So much for social progress. This is a sign of how much the West is losing.

    • kereru

      All this going on under our noses while the West decides to hold ‘hijab day’ at primary schools – all in the interests of being ‘inclusive’.I know of at least one primary school in Auckland who has a halal-only tuck-shop, and at present the Muslim community is a minority.

      How the Muslim world must laugh at our weakness and gullibility. I read that an American university is bringing in a paper on ‘Islamophobia’. All we are doing is cutting our own throats, and our respective governments are refusing to do anything about it. There are none so blind as those who won’tsee. They could, but they won’t.

  • Tiger

    Well 50%, probably more if you take male deaths from premature paradise passage syndrome into account, of the muslim ( note , not Arab) population have been ignored. It is their time to rise up, hell the west did it 110 years ago. Go girls!

    • MaryLou

      The thing is, they HAVE already done it, re the photos illustrations. Mad Mullahs mean they have to do it all over again. And as much has I admire the Pankhursts of this world, and they did indeed take a beating, these girls face much, much more. That this could come to pass in this day and age (’cause it wasn’t that long ago) is unspeakably tragic.

  • johnandali

    But hold on. You can’t say things like this. After all, our esteemed Foreign Minister the Hon Murray McCully has just been to Iran, and he didn’t say a thing about the way that Iranians treat their people, or about the huge amounts of financial and military aid including thousands of rockets they give to terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Or how any candidate for their parliament has to be approved by the mullahs, or even that the Iranians execute more people than any other country, including stoning to death of women who have been unfaithful. And their immediate executions of people found guilty during a ten minute court session with no appeal allowed. No. Murray McCully (the dishonourable Murray McCully), criticised only one Middle Eastern country. Israel. Which also happens to be the only democratic country in the entire area, and even has Muslim Arab MPs. How low can he go? How stupid can he be? Or is he just ignorant? Or is he simply playing a game so he can be the NZ ambassador to Iran after the next election? I personally think that’s his motive.

    • kereru

      ‘… including stoning to death of women who have been unfaithful.’

      Or are accused of being unfaithful – no evidence needed. These kinds of events make me so mad, trade or no trade. How can McCully sleep at night when Christians and political prisoners are languishing in Iran’s notorious jails?

  • kereru

    SB, I typed out a quick response this morning from yesterday’s talking to a cynic thread. I hope you get to read it before it disappears into the archives.

    I’ve just come home from writing letters to prisoners of faith in several nations, including Iran. Reading how they are treated is deeply disturbing. As you can imagine, it’s far worse for women prisoners, but few of them avoid suffering from PTSD when and if they are eventually released. They’re frequently told that today could be the day of their execution, or that their loved ones are dead, and their children taken away to be raised by Muslim families. That’s as well as the unrelenting beatings and physical torture. How can the West remain unmoved?

    • sandalwood789

      The West has oceans of blood on its hands when it turns a blind eye to these political prisoners and the massacre of Christian minorities in Islamic countries.
      All for the sake of “political correctness” and cuddling up to Islamic countries for their trade links.

      • kereru

        Never in my lifetime have I come across so many unanswerable questions. Why are Western leaders so intent on committing national suicide? I was discussing this today with some friends and we could only come to the conclusion that there has to be some kind of hidden agenda to explain the seeming abandonment of once free nations to their fate at the hands of those who are at enmity with the very priciples we hold most dear.

    • Duchess of Pork

      Thirty years ago as a member of Amnesty International I also wrote letters to prisoners of faith in Islamic countries. I am very disenchanted with the left turn that Amnesty has made in the intervening years and doubt they would have members supporting that activity today. Too busy with lobbying over muslim refugee quotas and grovelling to their open border master and chief financier George Soros. I admire and commend you for your outreach to these women.

      • kereru

        Thank you DoP but there’s nothing to thank me for. It’s a privilege to write to them. There’s a group of us who get together once a month to write It’s immensely rewarding. Reading the full extent of the treatment they endure we often feel unfit to be in the same room as them. At the same time we are so angry at the sheer injustice of these inhuman regimes. It also makes us realise how much we take our freedoms for granted – and in how much danger we are of losing them..

  • Mark156

    All in the name of religion.We’re doomed as a race…

    • kereru

      It’s in the name of Islam. End of.

  • Richard

    And on a positive note from Tunisia we see the ruling party Ennahda announcing yesterday that it is formally rejecting Islamism and officially separating mosque and state

    Mahbrouk Tunisie!