Tehran: Freed From the Hijab

Below is another article from Emma.de, the website of the German feminist Alice Schwarzer. This one was translated by JLH, who sends the following introductory note:

This is somewhat old, but an interesting reflection on the continuing resistance to sharia on Iran. It is striking that Alice Schwarzer — the grand poobah of German feminism — visited Tehran on May 1, 1979, less than three months after the final defeat of the remaining royal forces and the installation of the Khomeini regime.

Schwarzer summarizes her impressions of the visit by quoting from the Iranian Anouchkla Hodes in the then-current issue of her feminist magazine, EMMA: “Repression by the Shah came for us Iranians from without, and was so obvious and violent, that one could defend oneself against it. But religious repression comes from the people themselves and is blindly approved by the majority of Iranians, because they have known only this form of resistance against the [Shah’s] tyranny of terror.”

And even after President Obama ignored the peaceful but voluble protest of Iranian elections in 2009 — sometimes called the “Green Revolution” — resistance is not dead.

I searched for more recent articles on the subject, but found none. That may just be my inadequate search methods.

The translated article:

Tehran: Freed From the Hijab

May 31, 2016

There is a new trend in Tehran. Women are shaving their heads so they won’t have to cover up anymore. Or some are just going out in public “as a man.” Since the [international economic] sanctions were lifted, many are celebrating the so-called “opening up” of the theocratic state. That applies to the economy — but what about women?

Step 1: She had her hair shaved off and donated to help children with cancer. Step 2: She stepped out into the street, bald — and without a headscarf. Step 3: She made it public via Facebook. She is an Iranian woman, and all of this is playing out in Tehran. She writes: “When I stepped out onto the street, I told myself — ‘No hair — no cultural police.’ Now the ones who always tell me to cover my hair no longer have a reason to arrest me for anti-Islamic behavior.”

Women Find Ways to Hide Everything Feminine

Iran, which is “opening up” to the acclaim of the international media, is indeed opening up economically, but not for women. Just the opposite.

Tehran’s police chief has just announced that the uniformed Eshad[1] patrols — who arrest all women whom they believe are “anti-Islamically” dressed — are staffed by 7,000 police officers in civilian clothes. All on the hunt for women.

The Iranian Jean Seberg posted her photo at the Facebook group My Stealthy Freedom, whose founder Mashi Alinejad now lives in New York. For years My Stealthy Freedom has been publishing thousands of photos of completely fearless Iranian women who are de-veiling as protest — as the “law of the headscarf” is being fought out in this land.

Many an Iranian woman of Tehran has not only had her hair cut short. Like Narges, a 19-year-old athlete from Tehran. For some time, she has been going out in public as a man. “A new trend among women in Tehran,” she writes in an e-mail to EMMA. There are also photos on My Stealthy Freedom.

“Men have so many more liberties. Above all, they are not forced to wear a veil,” says Narges. “But I have found a way to disguise everything feminine on my body.” Narges wears capacious pants and shirts. She bound her breasts firmly to her body. She kept that up, until — as she recalls, they had “lost their shape” and the bindings were no longer necessary. “And now it has become more difficult for me to dress as a girl.”

And Still, They Would Just Like to be Women — But Free

At first it even seemed to be a relief. Narges felt safe as a boy on the street. But now the 19-year-old regrets this compulsion. “I would really like to be a girl. I never intended to completely change my gender identity. I was forced into taking leave of my femininity. Just to be able to be free.”

Like so many women in Iran, Narges has a dream. “I would like to live in a country where I can enjoy being a woman — and not have to act as if I were someone else.”


1. Ministry of Culture

13 thoughts on “Tehran: Freed From the Hijab

    • Of course not.
      …………after all, it seems they are not anti-male.

      Ergo–they do not exist, nor does their cause.

    • Those $%#$%&”(/s of the…brigade completely agree : «it’s Islam! » «Their culture! »; so exotic; so good we should have it» Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  1. Let me express my relief that Obama in 2009 did not interfere in the Iranian election repression, even to the extent of officially condemning it.

    US intervention and interference has turned out almost universally disastrous, whether by a Democratic or Republican administration. Like Estonia and Ukraine on the Russian border, their better choice is to learn to live with(and covertly fight) the restrictions under which they find themselves.

    Secondly, as Robert Spencer pointed out in his excellent book on Iran and the Sunni-Shi’a split:
    the Green movement was anything but democratic, and was another form of Islamicism.

    Will the covert and completely individual resistance of women like Narges cause a substantive change in the theocratic Iranian regime? I don’t know, but it’s not something the US should be interfering with. Let Iran simmer and stew in its own mess. The US gave the Castro regime an excuse for its miserable economic circumstances and its repressive atmosphere for more than 40 years. The actual cause of Cuban miseries was, of course, the orthodox Communist nature of its government.

    Off Track, the two areas of success for the Castro regime were basic medicine and education. This, to me, says crony corporate government cartel capitalism has the seeds to become as oppressive and destructive as Communism.

    • Advice given to me by a friend back in the 60’s:
      “If you see a man and his wife fighting–stay out of it! I got involved once, and they both turned on me!”

  2. It sure took the Iranian women long enough to come up with a solution! And they STILL haven’t caught up with Orthodox Jews.

    The Muslims got their “don’t show your hair” rule from Jewish law way back when Mohammed cobbled together his new religion out of Christianity, Judaism and Moon Worship.

    Orthodox Jewish women responded to the no-hair-in-public rule by shaving their heads. Who wants to look at a bald-headed woman on the street, though? So Jewish women got their sexy back and avoided the Jewish morality police by wearing wigs (Google “sheitel”) on top of their bald heads.

    You have to think about it from a Jewish legalistic perspective. The Jewish God said “don’t show your hair when you go out in public [so you don’t inflame the lust of Jewish men and take their thoughts off God]”. Get it? Jewish law says, “Don’t show YOUR hair!” As a Jewess, you can shave your head and wear a wig in public, but since you are not showing YOUR hair in public, you are not breaching the Jewish God’s law!

    It was a brilliant solution! Let’s hope Iranian women finally catch up to their Jewish sisters and start wearing attractive wigs in public.

    I can’t wait until the Muslim morality police stop some Iranian woman for walking around with “her” hair “uncovered” … and she suddenly reaches up, yanks off her wig, and flashes her bald head. That’ll show ’em!

    • Unfortunately, the Islamic morality police thugs are not likely to be as legalistic as Talmudic scholars.

      Also, don’t forget that strictly speaking, it is not necessary to shave your own hair as a woman. Simply wrap it up and wear a wig over it. Again, Hasidic Jewish scholars are a lot more likely to tolerate legalisms than Iranian (or Saudi) religious police thugs.

      Any close-knit, self-identifying community is likely to have its own norms, and may enforce the norms with shunning. Shunning is extremely unpleasant for someone who identifies with the community, but at the root, they have the choice to stay or leave. The Amish are another example of this type of close-knit community with its own norms of appearance, employing shunning to discipline full Amish who have strayed from the required observances of the faith and norms.

  3. [insulting group characterization redacted]
    Iranian women on the other hand tend to be attractive and would only shave their heads as a last resort.

    Middle class, urban, educated Iranians also tend to be irreligious, in an extensive trip around Iran covering half a dozen cities I did not see any veiled women and the mosques were for the most part empty, the Iranians i met were alao into partying when they could.

    Given time it is possible that liberal Iranians will overthrow their theocratic government and should be supported.

  4. The Green Movement was not exactly a form of Islamicism, but another blind movement without principles. The middle class were only sick and tired of the situation and were absorbed by the government-led fake movement which granted the required excuse to arrest and prosecute writers and activists. At least this is what I understood.

  5. Thank you. I cannot find the description in the reviews and perhaps that’s not important, I already know that person who cannot be described using all pejorative adjectives in a dictionary.

    I also read your comment. Two thoughts:
    Prime Minister was not decided on ballots in Iran those days. It was a direct appointment by king, completely undemocratic. This mistake is repeatedly observed in Western essays. And I wonder the amount of sympathy that Mossadegh receives these days. Napoleon believed England is a country of shopkeepers. If that quote is true, why Mossadegh was not able to make a deal with the shopkeepers? Making deals should be their specialty. As long as I understood it the English were ready for a deal, they were not sitting on the other side of the table with all-evil intentions, but Iranian side was totally incapable of making a deal for mutual benefit. That important event torn Iran-England relations which won’t be restored anytime soon.

    Supporting the dissidents? I agree with you, that would be a non-optimum action by Americans with unpredictable results; how Americans will know they are not supporting another discordant Mossadegh, and how the Iranian dissident(s) should know which contradictory American party they should appease? Still let’s not forget the mess we are in is partly created by criminals who call themselves Democrats and are residents of United States. Ironically their midwives are now flooding in the streets of D.C. to give birth to Islamic Republic of America.

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