Women in Iran Are Rebelling Against the Compulsory Hijab Law

Women are pushing back against the law that requires them to cover their hair, and which is being enforced strongly by the new hardline president.
iran hijab law
PHOTO: Morteza Nikoubazl/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Women across Iran are defying the rule that says they must cover their hair in public, posting videos of themselves removing their hijabs in protest against the country’s hardline president.  

President Ebrahim Raisi, a cleric supported by the country’s very conservative religious elite, described the recent backlash of mostly young people to the hijab law as “an organised promotion of moral corruption in Islamic society.”

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The authorities are cracking down on the rebellion and plan to celebrate “Hijab and Chastity” day on Tuesday. The events will include a rally in Azadi Stadium, a large football stadium in Tehran, to encourage women to follow the hijab rule.  

The Iranian security forces have stepped up their moral policing patrols across Iran to reinforce the strict dress code in recent months, and many women are rebelling against the stricter rules.

The law in Iran requires women to wear a head covering, but the restrictions vary from one administration to the next, depending on the political background of the incumbent president. 

Some regions are more liberal than others, with women in the religious Mashhad and Qom provinces tightly monitored while those in Tehran or Shiraz can often get away without wearing a full head covering.   

Since Raisi’s victory last year, more restrictive guidance has been introduced, and officials have given directives to refuse “badly veiled” women into government offices, banks, and public transport. 

Iranian women have followed the Islamic hijab rule for the past four decades, since it was mandated after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. People have found ways around the limitation of the laws to wear colourful fabric and show some of their hair. Religious scholars have long been concerned about this, saying they are breaching the Islamic republic’s principles of “chastity and hijab” guidance.

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The Imam of Tehran’s Friday prayers, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, bashed women who defied the regime’s mandatory hijab laws in his sermon and said, “Stealing, embezzling, and removing hijab are all sins, and by the way, the majority of those unveiled women are either wives or daughters of those thieves.” 

The country’s ‘fashion police’ units, officially called the Guidance Patrols, have stepped up enforcing the “hijab law” across Iran. The branch has been pictured and filmed by bystanders rounding up women and warning them about their clothing.

 In June, the government introduced two organisations to tackle the “badly veiled” phenomena. A number of incidents circulated on social media showed women contesting the authorities.

Campaigns against the regime’s restrictive policies are organised mostly by political activists and dissidents outside of Iran, but young women inside Iran have started to post selfies without the hijab in defiance of increasing pressure from the government. 

In an incident in Shiraz, a city known for its loose implementation of the dress code, a group of teenage girl and boy skaters gathered, with girls not wearing their headscarves on the 23rd of June. Ten of them were arrested.  

Iran’s “Hijab and Chastity Day” on Tuesday is designed to tackle the “badly veiled” trend and promote the state-approved dress code.