Movement against Iran's headscarf law gains momentum

Posted February 03, 2018

Just a few months after the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, a law forcing women to not only cover their heads, but also wear loose clothing to hide their figures, came into effect despite mass protest.

On December 27, a woman later identified as 31-year-old Via Movahed became an worldwide sensation after she stood atop a telecoms box in Tehran's Enghelab Street.

Vida Movahed's protest in the centre of Tehran last month. The woman was later identified as 31-year-old Vida Movahed.

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Public concern mounted for Movahedi's safety after reports of her arrest, particularly with the authorities clamping down on protests and possible dissenters as antiestablishment unrest spread to dozens of Iranian cities in late December and early January. This woman stood atop a utility box for 10 minutes before officers arrested her, the Guardian learned.

The movement to get rid of the country's dress codes was started by Iranian activist Masih Alinejad and her website My Stealthy Freedom, which encouraged women to send photos of themselves without hijabs. Thousands of people, including men, have changed their profile pictures in support of Movahed.

The Center for Human Rights in Iran, a New York-based advocacy group, said on Friday some detainees arrested in the protests are facing charges that are punishable by death.

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Her actions sparked similar protests in Tehran with three other women taking off their headscarves and holding it on a stick.

A prominent human rights lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that one of the detained women had her bail set at more than $100,000 (80,000 euros).

Referring to the avenue where the woman took off her headscarf, Sotoudeh wrote: "The girl of the Enghelab Avenue has been released". "Let women decide themselves about their own body". Pictures posted on social media showed the woman wearing a green wristband, in apparent reference to the civil liberties movement whose leaders are still under house arrest.

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Young women in Iran are part of a new generation of activists as they protest their country's restrictive dress code. Despite the fear of reprisals, millions of women in Iran defy the restrictions on a daily basis.