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Source: Washington Post

Jul 7, 2023

Opinion - In Iran, the hijab revolt intensifies

It has been a tense exam period at Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabai University. The university ordered women to wear the maghnaeh, a hijab, covering the head, forehead, chin and chest. By one account, the students were told their exam papers would not be accepted if they didn’t comply.


On June 26, angry students at the university staged a sit-in protest. When security forces arrived, they smashed one student’s head against the stone steps.


A video of the incident was posted online, and rage spread anew. Iran’s nearly 10-month-old protest movement, which began last September after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old student, died while in police custody for an alleged violation of the country’s mandatory headscarf law, is still going strong.


After the university incident, students issued a statement openly challenging the authorities, complaining that the security services were out of control, the professors silenced and the students treated as prisoners on their own campus. The students declared, defiantly, “No one is going to obey you.”


Iran’s women and university students are at the forefront of the uprising, a movement known as “Women, Life, Freedom.” It is aimed at rejecting the compulsory wearing of hijab and seeks more freedom overall from Iran’s suffocating Islamist theocracy. All through June, this mood of revolt surged through campuses.


A center of resistance was Tehran University of Art, which temporarily suspended 40 female students from attending classes for their alleged “failure to fully observe” the Islamic dress code. The women were told if they didn’t wear the headcovering, their suspension would be made permanent. Students staged a sit-in protest June 15.


Security forces surrounded them, cutting off access to water, food and restrooms. “We will not give in to oppression!” the students wrote in a statement, vowing that “nothing will go back” to the way it was before the protests.


At the K. N. Toosi University of Technology, students declared, “A single scratch on the body of an art student is enough to make students across the country overflow with anger and rage and pour into the streets.”


At least a dozen student groups from across Iran issued a statement in support of the Art University students and against the mandatory hijab. More than 700 students have been arrested during the protests; these students are risking their degrees to take an unflinching stand.


Iran’s Islamist theocracy isn’t giving up. According to Radio Farda, an Iranian criminal court ordered a woman to perform 270 hours of cleaning public spaces, including the Interior Ministry buildings in Tehran, for what the presiding judge called the “political sin” of not wearing the hijab. The verdict was reportedly based on images from surveillance cameras installed around the country to enforce the hijab law.


Women in Iran can face fines, arrests and imprisonment for not wearing a hijab. But a bill introduced in parliament would carry a range of additional punishments, including monetary fines, restrictions on accessing bank accounts, confiscation of personal vehicles, travel limitations, bans on online activity and imprisonment.


But no efforts by the regime have been able to squelch the revolt. In major cities, more and more women are openly going in public without a hijab. This is a sign they are winning, even if the aging theocrats who rule Iran do not yet realize it.





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