Men in Hijabs: Supporting Women’s Rights in Iran

Men in Iran are wearing hijabs in a display of solidarity with women across the country. Over the past week, men have been appearing in photos wearing a hijab with their wife or female relatives next to them, with their hair uncovered. These images are a response to a campaign started by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian activist, who is urging men to support the My Stealthy Freedom campaign against the enforced hijab in Iran. One of the men who participated in this campaign captioned his photo saying

“I think that one should not talk about freedom if she/he supports the idea of restricting other people’s freedom,”

continuing on to call out the government’s focus on the hijab as the sole problem in Iran, despite the other issues present in the country.

Women in Iran have been forced to wear a hijab since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. This is strictly enforced by ‘morality police’ who punish women that do not wear a hijab or wear it incorrectly. The punishments for failing to abide by the hijab rules range from fines to imprisonment. The government funds an advertising campaign, presenting women who do not cover their hair as spoilt and dishonourable. Furthermore, women are told that they need to comply in order to avoid unwanted sexual advances from men.

However, women have been leading protests against the enforced hijab across the country, with some resorting to shaving their hair in order to appear in public without wearing one.  My Stealthy Freedom is an online social movement where Iranian women share photos of themselves without the hijab. Alinejad started the campaign in May 2014 and she describes the campaign as “the right for individual Iranian women to choose whether they want hijab.” Alinejad is an exiled journalist, living in America but has become one of Iran’s leading women’s rights activists due to her presence on social media. In response to questions regarding the safety of the women involved in the My Stealthy Campaign, Alinejad said that

“for these women, even without sending their pictures, they are already in danger [and] although they are like hostages in the hands of mean and the laws inside Iran, they are strong, and they’re fighting for their rights and they’re successful.”

She called for men to participate in this latest campaign in order to support women’s rights.

This latest move in the My Stealthy Campaign enables all individuals in Iran to become involved in the fight for women’s rights. For decades, women in Iran have had limited freedoms and it is important that the whole of society is involved in the fight to fix these problems. With more involvement from society, it is more likely that there will be a positive change that enables women to have more choice and freedoms. My Stealthy Freedom is a positive contribution to this continuing fight and enables more representation about an issue that is very important in Iran. It is essential that participation in these campaigns is encouraged so that individuals are not only able to show their support but so that there is a real chance for change in Iran.

Lillian Wetherspoon