Though the movement began before 2018, #WhiteWednesdays has gained steam and more international attention since the Iranian protests that ended in early January. Women have been removing their hijab in protest of the strict dress code, enforced by law since 1979. The first image/video to really go viral was of Vida Movahed, taken on December 27, the day before the major protests throughout the country began. Since then, women have been joining the movement, though international attention has seemed to have begun to wane.
The leader of the movement is Masih Alinejad, a journalist based out of New York who is unable to return to Iran for fear of arrest. Her movement was first called My Stealthy Freedom, though many have taken to the hashtag: #WhiteWednesdays. Wearing white headscarves on Wednesdays was initially the form of protest, though that has turned into the protests we see today: standing in a place of prominence, taking off the hijab, and holding it out or waving it on a stick. Alinejad told Reuters that, “We are fighting against the most visible symbol of oppression. These women are saying, ‘It is enough — it is the 21st century and we want to be our true selves’ … These people are not fighting against a piece of cloth. They are fighting against the ideology behind a compulsory hijab.”
As the movement continues, they aren’t going unnoticed by the government. Participating women have been arrested, and some face up to ten years in prison. The government uses words like “abetting prostitution” to gain traction in prosecution. And the government isn’t the only force opposed to the change in laws — many regular Iranians are in favor of the strict enforcement of the dress code.
Woman is forcibly dragged off from protesting:
Today, another #Iran|ian woman peacefully protested against the compulsory Hijab & was brutally arrested by Islamic regime’s Police. “Azam Jangravi”, women’s right activist was arrested in #RevolutionStreet, #Tehran#IranProtests #WhiteWednesdays
Shia #ISIL is Sunni #ISIL pic.twitter.com/HBL1BMBizD
— Babak Taghvaee (@BabakTaghvaee) February 15, 2018
When the 1979 Islamic Revolution took hold in Iran, the country went through some drastic changes. Many in other Muslim countries in the Middle East would have considered Iran to be one of the more “liberal” Islamic countries, especially when it came to the dress code. However, that all changed when Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power. Over 100,000 men and women protested the changes — which also banned the use of make-up, and touching or dancing with men who are not family members — but eventually such protests were stifled, like the ones earlier this year.
While, over time, the laws have not been as strictly enforced and loose scarves over the head are generally accepted, these women are protesting the right to choose. It is likely that, in the event that Iran does change its laws, many will continue to choose to wear the hijab — but it’s the choosing that these women aim to change.
Featured images courtesy of Twitter.