Women in Iran have been posting pictures of themselves after ‘stealthily’ taking their hijabs off in public, in a country where it is illegal for a female to leave the house without wearing a headscarf under Islamic law.
Over 150 photos have been posted to the Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women Facebook page which has amassed more than 140,000 likes since it was created just a week ago by the Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad.
Ms Alinejad, who left Iran to pursue her studies in the UK in 2009, told The Independent the page began when she posted a photograph of herself driving down a road in the country without wearing a headscarf.
The image was captioned with: “Hijab is being forced on women not only by the Morality Police, but also out of consideration for family, through wanting to keep a job and because of fear of judgment from others.”
“I wrote that I had experienced all of these pressures too,” she explained. “I was sure that most Iranian women who don’t believe in the forced hijab have enjoyed freedom in secret, [so] I asked them if they wished to share this moment of stealth freedom.”
The response she received shortly after starting the page was “staggering”, something she feels “delighted” at, but not surprised by.
In the photos, which Ms Alinejad publishes without including full names, women in different outdoor environments can be seen after removing their hijabs alongside a few words describing the lack of freedom embodied in having to wear a hijab, or what it means to be briefly remove it in public.
The site is dedicated to Iranian women inside the country “who want to share their ‘stealthily’ taken photos without the veil”.
Ms Alinejad said: “It is a basic right for any person to have freedom of choice. Women in Iran, along with many other countries, want to choose what they wear. It should not be legislated nor should it be enforced.”
One post shows a smiling woman stood by the Valasht Lake in Iran, accompanied by the caption: “I was bursting with happiness to feel the wind through my hair without someone around to see it and warn me to keep covered properly.”
In another, a woman can be seen sat by the Tomb of Cyrus in Iran with her back turned to the camera. “The police officer who was around saw that my daughter and I wanted to take photos with our scarves taken off,” she explains in the accompanying text.
“He said: ‘Go on..take your photos the way you please. The person who has been sleeping here for long years is the source of the whole world’s freedom and this place belongs to everybody.'”
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani has expressed more progressive views than his predecessors since his election. On the subject of the strict Islamic dress code that includes the hijab, he said he was against a crackdown on women wearing looser clothing in the sweltering summers.
“I’m certainly against these actions,” Rouhani told youth magazine Chelcheragh in response to religious police who monitor loose hijabs and inappropriate clothing during the warmer months earlier this year.
“If a women or a man does not comply with our rules for clothing, his or her virtue should not come under question.. In my view, many women in our society who do not respect our hijab laws are virtuous. Our emphasis should be on the virtue.”
However, more conservative men and women have staged protests in Tehran demanding authorities act on women wearing ‘bad’ hijab.
By Heather Saul