Iran’s Anti-Hijab Protest: Women, Life, and Freedom

구시현, 김경석, 김지원, 이은희l승인2022.11.09l수정2022.11.14 15:16l398호 1면

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   On September 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died after being apprehended by the morality police in Tehran for not wearing a hijab properly, thus triggering antigovernment protests across Iran. The demonstrators clamoring for ‘Women, Life, and Freedom’ are against the Iranian government policy that forces women to wear hijabs. The government’s response has been ruthless.

▲ The demonstrators clamoring for ‘Women, Life, and Freedom’ are against the Iranian government policy that forces women to wear hijabs. (Photo from ABC News)

   Masha Amini was taken to a “re-education center” for allegedly not abiding by the country’s hijab rules based on Iran’s inherent Islamic law. Authorities claimed that she had died due to a heart attack and falling into a coma. However, her family revealed that she never had a heart condition. Soon, outraged Iranians criticized the government which led to deadly protests objecting to the Islamic law. On this basis, Iran citizens are certainly crying out for freedom from its coercive and discriminative hijab policy. This law was revised by the traditional conservative government in 1979, after the Iranian revolution. The law decrees that all women in Iran should dress modestly and wear headscarves when leaving the house. This outdated law, which deeply underlies in the fabric of Iranian culture and society is the main reason why people are speaking out.

   The protests triggered by Mahsa Amini's mysterious death have escalated into protests calling for democracy and freedom in Iran, regardless of gender, class, or ethnicity. It is noteworthy that protests have continued for more than a month in Iran, where rallies and demonstrations are banned. The Iranian government is suppressing the protesters by blocking Internet access and cracking down on the demonstrations. According to a human rights organization in Iran, at least 201 civilians were killed during the government crackdowns. Two teenage girls, Nika of Tehran and Sarina of Karaj, who were killed by security forces after taking part in different protests in late September, have become the new symbols of resistance. Protesters' enthusiasm for an end to the nations Islamic rule over the republic is not expected to subside. In response, the international community is also standing in solidarity with the protesters. U.S. President Joe Biden expressed his support for Iranian women in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly and expanded Internet services that cannot be sanctioned by the Iranian government. Other western countries are imposing sanctions on dozens of individuals and groups linked to the hijab issue, including Iranian religious police. Many women from all over the world, including famous actresses and members of the European Parliament, are showing their solidarity with Iran by cutting their hair. In Iran, women cut their hair when they are in mourning or as a sign of protest. On top of these actions, a video of a woman whose brother died during a recent protest, has further spread the sense of resistance and solidarity. In it she is crying at his funeral, cutting her hair, and scattering the strands on a coffin.

▲ Many women from all over the world, including famous actresses and members of the European Parliament, are showing their solidarity with Iran by cutting their hair. (Photo from Reuters)

 To learn more about Iran’s current demonstrations and the possible future of the country, The Dankook Herald (DKH) interviewed Professor Eum Ik-ran from the College of Liberal Arts in Jukjeon Campus, whose main research subjects are consumerism and Islam, family and gender issues in the Arab Gulf countries. Professor Eum said it is considered taboo to talk about whether Islam’s legal system, the Sharia Law, is valid or not since it could be a provocative question evaluating the existence and the word of God. However, people can still make arguments about how the Koran, the central religious text of Islam, is interpreted. She explained that the intrinsic problem is how male jurists interpret it in most countries. In some cases, a woman’s hair is illustrated as a symbol of temptation, which exhibits a patriarchal perspective. Iranian women cutting off their hair in protests should not be seen as a special custom when asserting their rights. She said it rather means condolences for the death of a young woman and the only way to express their strong determination.

   The protest has evolved into an anti-government demonstration. Professor Eum mentioned that its turnout is unpredictable, considering the international order and Iran’s economic depression. “It would depend on what the protestors want overall, whether it is focusing on the issue of women or simply objecting to the government. For now, it is difficult to figure out the situation.” However, this demonstration would have little impact on Islamic countries since there are only two countries - Afghanistan and Iran - requiring women to wear hijabs by law. Saudi Arabia used to have a strict demand for this kind of policy, but reformed views on women’s rights have made it more lenient. Iran currently has the strictest laws in place.

   There are strong voices in support of the protest around the world. The DKH hopes that Iranian women soon achieve the freedom of choice to wear hijabs. There also needs to be global attention to international human rights protests, including the current protests in Iran.


구시현, 김경석, 김지원, 이은희  dankookherald@gmail.com
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