Iranian women take off the veil on Facebook

The Western press has shed light on the matter to highlight the repression in Iran.

al-monitor Women of various ages post pictures without the mandatory veil from several areas in Iran on a new Facebook page that has attracted global attention. Photo by Facebook/My Stealthy Freedom.

Topics covered

women’s rights, women, social media, iran, hijab, facebook

May 16, 2014

A few days ago, UK-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad launched a Facebook page titled “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women” where she began to post pictures of herself without the veil. The launch of the Facebook page coincided with the hashtag #azadi_yuwashki, meaning “stealthy freedom,” being spread on social media. The Facebook page attracted more than 200,000 followers in a few days, as many Iranian women followed Masih’s lead and started posting their own photos without the veil.

Facebook verified the page, where you can follow the pictures of women of various ages posting their pictures without the mandatory veil from several areas in Iran. The campaign received wide attention from the Western press, which brought attention to the subject and published some of the pictures. The British newspaper The Guardian published an article with statements from Alinejad, who emphasized these women are trying to overcome the restrictions imposed by their country. Also, the BBC gave the details of the campaign on its Arabic-language site in a report titled “Iranian women take off the veil.” The report was accompanied by comments from those in the pictures, such as “I took off the veil. I, too, like to feel the sunlight and the air in my hair. Is that such a big sin?”

The French Le Figaro and the British The Independent newspapers didn’t let that issue pass as an ordinary piece of news. They gave it ample space and covered the motives and concerns of Alinejad and her comrades.

With the growing media attention about the Facebook page and the hashtag, the issue caused an uproar on social media, with many solidarity campaigns from all over the world, especially women’s rights activists, who called the movement a female renaissance.

Some have linked what Alinejad did with the campaigns that Saudi women launch every now and then to demand their right to drive. In Saudi Arabia, many women have broken down this barrier and challenged the authorities by driving cars publicly in broad daylight. There have been several comments pointing to the great similarity between the two campaigns, stressing that the issue of women’s emancipation and equality with men at all levels has become an urgent need.

But some Facebook commentators rejected the comparison between the two cases saying the status of Saudi women is dramatically different than that of women in Iran. The latter have an active role in political and social life and enjoy significant personal freedoms. Wearing the veil is a religious duty for a large part of Iranians and Saudis, while banning women from driving in Saudi Arabia is linked to strict social traditions that exclude women from the public sphere.

Anyone who saw the pictures of the Iranian women on the Facebook page would notice how happy they seem. For many this is an act of liberation in which they try to break the taboo and reject laws that impose a dress code.

But the big fuss raised by the press around the world was not to shed light on the experience of women participating in the campaign, but rather to shed light on the repression in Iran. Most articles written about the Facebook page tried to use the veil in Iran within the framework of the political conflict about the Iranian nuclear file and to focus on the international fight on the future of Iran and the shape of its political system.

However, regardless of the differing views about the role of Iran in the world, the Facebook page “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women” is considered a new gateway to Persia and a unique opportunity to see it from the perspective of women living rare moments of freedom being documented on social media sites, which are still banned in Iran.

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