A second woman has been arrested in Iran for protesting against the country’s compulsory hijab rules after standing on a telecoms box on a Tehran street, taking off her headscarf and holding it aloft on a stick.
The protest follows a similar action last month against the country’s requirement that women cover themselves from head to toe in public.
Pictures posted on social media on Monday showed at least three other women standing on top of telecoms boxes in Tehran in apparent solidarity with the women, including one near Ferdowsi Square.
A widely shared smartphone image of the first protest showed a young woman standing on a telecoms box on Enghelab Street in the centre of the Iranian capital. The woman was later identified as 31-year-old Vida Movahed.
Movahed’s act of resistance coincided with a wave of protests that spread across the country. Although they were not directly linked, her action embodied the aspirations of a movement of young Iranians frustrated with the lack of social and political freedoms.
Many Iranians, including men, changed their social media profile pictures to images inspired by Movahed’s protest, and shared a hashtag that translated as “the girl of Enghelab Street”.
Movahed’s identity was initially a mystery until Iran’s most prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, established she had been arrested. Sotoudeh said on her Facebook page on Sunday that Movahed had been released.
Sotoudeh, speaking to the Guardian on the phone from Tehran, said the second woman appeared on the same telecoms box at around 11am local time on Monday for about 10 mins before being arrested by plainclothes officers. Two other people filming her were also arrested, she said. It was not clear if they remained detained on Monday evening.
Reacting to the new protest, Sotoudeh wrote: “Her message is clear, girls and women are fed up with forced [hijab]. Let women decide themselves about their own body.”
Pictures posted on social media showed the second woman, named as Narges Hosseini, wearing a green wristband, in apparent reference to the 2009 Green movement whose leaders are still under house arrest.
Vahid Online, a popular channel on Telegram, the most popular social network in Iran, posted a series of images showing other women taking their headscarves off and holding them up on a stick.
One image showed a bouquet of flowers laid on top of the first telecoms box that featured in Movahed’s protest, which was also used by Hosseini before her arrest.
Iranian law has compelled women to wear a hijab since the 1979 revolution, but it has been a difficult policy to enforce. Despite the fear of reprisals, millions of women in Iran defy the restrictions on a daily basis.
A growing number of women, especially in Tehran, refuse to wear a hijab while driving, arguing that a car is a private space where they can dress more freely..
The issue has become more prominent in recent years, partly thanks to a campaign run by activist Masih Alinejad, called My Stealthy Freedom. Her Facebook page invites women in Iran to post pictures of themselves without their headscarves in defiance of the rules. She is also behind White Wednesdays, a campaign encouraging women to wear white headscarves and take them off in protest at the rules.
“Forced hijab is the most visible symbol of oppression against women in Iran, that’s why fighting for freedom to wear or not to wear hijab is the first step towards full equality,” Alinejad told the Guardian on Monday. “These women are not protesting against a piece of cloth, it’s about our identity, our dignity, and our freedom of choice. Our body, our choice.”
Zahra Safyari, an Iranian woman who voluntarily wears a hijab, tweeted: “I wear the chador. I chose to wear the hijab, it wasn’t forced on me by my family or the society, nor it was a work requirement. I am happy with my choice but I am opposed to forced hijab and that’s why I appreciate the Girls of Enghelab Street. Religion and hijab should not be compulsory.”
Source : BBC