Is this the end of the compulsory hijab in Iran? Minister offers to hold referendum on veils as female protesters tear them off and chant ‘our rights can’t be decided by others’
- Iranian women launch protests across the country against compulsory hijab
- Parliament’s deputy speaker Ali Motahari, called for a referendum on issue
- He said, however, he was confident the people would vote to keep the law
- Muslim headscarf – or hijab – has been compulsory for women in Iran since 1979
A senior Iranian politician has called for a referendum on compulsory hijab, sparking protests across the staunchly Muslim country by women demanding the law is removed without a vote.
Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament, demanded a nationwide vote on the hijab, adding that he was positive the country would vote for the law to stay.
The head scarf has been a mandatory dress requirement for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
There has been no indication if the call for a referendum will be turned into an official proposal, and if so, when the vote would be held.
Resistance against the forced hijab is not a new phenomenon, but the movement has picked up speed in the past year, with activists encouraging women to take their headscarf off and post their protests on social media.
After Motaharis call for a national vote on the hijab, women expressed their outrage at his suggestion that men should once again have a say in how they dress.
Video footage from one such protest shows two women on what appears to be a motorbike or moped, not wearing hijabs under their helmets.
‘No headscarf, I am the leader, you are the leader! Let’s shout for freedom,’ they chant as they wave their scarves.
‘Our basic rights about our bodies can’t be decided by others through a referendum’.
Protest: Women took to the streets after it was suggested in Iranian parliament that there should be a referendum on whether to keep the law on Islamic dress code
Shouting for freedom: One video shared online shows two women on a motorbike or moped, having removed their hijabs from under their helmets
United: Another clip shows a group of women walking through a park without headscarves
Another shows a group of women walking through a park, and all taking off their hijabs in public as one.
The video, shared by women’s rights campaigners My Stealthy Freedom, sees them walking down a down the wide path holding their scarves in the air.
Masih Alinejad, founder of My Stealthy Freedom, said today: ‘Our movement against compulsory hijab is gaining momentum Iran.
‘Women got braver and they practice their civil disobedience everyday, they became their own leader and women went beyond compulsory hijab and in their daily protest they are asking for religion to be separated from politics.
‘That is why all the clerics and Islamic republic officials panicked.’
Standing tall: A woman is filmed while standing on a box, holding out her headscarf, which has been compulsory for women in Iran since the Islamic Revolution of 1979
The Islamic dress code, in place since the 1979 revolution, considers veiling obligatory for any female above 13 in Iran and says they should cover themselves from head to toe while disavowing any figure-hugging dress.
Breaking the rules can result in fines of up to 500,000 rials (£17) and up to two months in prison.
President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in 2013 promising a more moderate stance, has previously said it is not the job of police to enforce religious rules such as those forcing women to cover their hair.
But in April 2016, officials said there were 7,000 undercover morality police reporting on things like ‘bad hijab’ – a blanket term usually referring to un-Islamic dress by women.
Figures are rarely given, but Tehran’s traffic police said in late 2015 they had dealt with 40,000 cases of bad hijab in cars, where women often let their headscarves drop around their necks.
These cases generally led to fines and a temporary impounding of the vehicle.