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Iran Forbids Women From Riding Bicycles

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Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” – Feminist icon Susan B. Anthony, 1896.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued a fatwa prohibiting women from riding bicycles in public.

Speaking to state media, Khamenei said, "Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women's chastity, and it must be abandoned."

Reaction was swift and to the point by women protesting the latest setback to their freedom in the Islamic Republic.

The hashtag #Iranianwomenlovecycling was initiated on social media and women began posting pictures of themselves riding bikes on the Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom,” a site initially created for Iranian women to post pictures of themselves outside without the obligatory hijab.

One mother and daughter rented bicycles as soon as they heard about the fatwa and videoed themselves riding around Kish Island. "Bicycle riding is part of our lives," said the daughter, "We're not giving up."

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and administrator of the “My Stealthy Freedom” Facebook page told ABC news in Australia, "This fatwa has received much ridicule on social media. It is absolutely shameful to hear such a backward fatwa against women in the 21st century … it is unacceptable in 2016.

"Women in Iran want to be active in society, but for the clerics, that's the big threat because in their eyes, women should not be seen nor heard, stuck in the kitchen."

"The fight for equality is a historical process and just in the same way that women succeeded in Europe and the U.S. to win their rights, so will women in Iran," she added.

Over the summer, Iranian police arrested a group of women who were riding bicycles and forced them to sign a pledge that they would not ride in public again.

When the bicycle was first invented in the mid 19th century, its use by women was similarly opposed by the conservative establishment in the West. Early feminists took to riding the bicycle as a form of protest against strict gender roles. Pamphlets such as “Harmful Effects of the Bicycle Upon the Girl's Pelvis” were published warning women to stay away from what was regarded as immoral behavior.

 

 

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org