News headlines have been filled with updates on the violent unrest in Iran with thousands of women and men taking to the streets to protest against the compulsory hijab law for the past few weeks.
Protests over the custodial death of 22-year-old Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa (Zhina) Amini have led to the arrests, beatings, and killing of over 90 people. The widespread protests have also led to violent clashes between the protestors and the police, leading to Internet outages and disruptions to curtail communication.
Amini was arrested by Iran’s Morality Police for not complying with the hijab laws of the country, a charge that her family denies completely. Amini was, allegedly, beaten in custody and succumbed to her injuries after three days. Protestors have been demanding clarification on the cause of her death as they flood the streets with chants and slogans for the abolishment of oppressive laws against women in the country. Hundreds of women have publicly removed their headscarves and burned them to express their anguish and anger over Amini’s death.
The seeds of this recent protest were planted right after the 1979 revolution, where leftist and right-wing Islamic organisations came together to overthrow the regime and become the Islamic Republic with a theocratic-republican constitution.
The conservative leadership promptly enacted rulings that prohibited women’s reproductive rights and imposed several rigid rules on their dressing and behaviour.
These laws were enacted with the help of the Morality Police which monitored the citizen for supposedly unlawful behaviours like dressing inappropriately in public.
Since then, the country has been replete with comparable protests, largely led by women, that have gone on to become catalysts for major political changes.
With protestors chanting slogans like “Death to the dictator” against Iran’s clerical rule and rejecting conservative Islamic dress codes imposed by the theocratic government, there’s hope for the angry Iranians and the country which is teetering at the edge of major cultural and political change.
It also helps that the eyes of the world are firmly on Iran at the moment. Hundreds of people across Europe, including in London, Madrid, and Paris have come out to protest in solidarity with their Iranian sisters. Internationally renowned celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Bella Hadid, Padma Lakshmi, and Eva Mendes have shown vocal support for the protestors in Iran.
The issue of the hijab has always been contentious around the world. Is the problem a simple piece of cloth? Or is it the oppression of a woman’s right to choose what she wants to wear? Take for instance the protests that sparked up across India earlier this year. A school in Karnataka had banned its students from wearing the hijab, with the High Court backing the ban. The anti-Islamic ruling was thinly veiled behind the garb of freeing women from the shackles of wearing a hijab. Similarly, France has been criticised for banning hijabs and burqas in public spaces.
Whether these recent protests in Iran bring about a cultural and political revolution in Iran or not is yet to be seen but the anger and discontent amongst the masses against an oppressive and conservative regime will resonate throughout the world.