Iran Publishes Study Indicating Waning Support for Hijabs

Narges Hosseini was arrested for protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab. She refused to appear in court to face charges punishable by up to 10 years, including 'encouraging immorality or prostitution.'
Narges Hosseini was arrested for protesting Iran’s compulsory hijab. She refused to appear in court to face charges punishable by up to 10 years, including ‘encouraging immorality or prostitution.’ (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)

The president of Iran published a study conducted by the government indicating the waning support for the mandatory wearing of hijabs (head scarves) and chadors (long cloaks).

The study – conducted by the Center for Strategic Studies, an arm of the president’s office — polled Iranians four times between 2006 and 2014.

According to the study, in 2006, 34 percent of Iranians indicated they disapproved of the government dictating what women could wear. By 2014, that number increased to 49 percent. Similarly, in 2006, 54 percent agreed that women should wear a chador, but in 2014, only 35 percent thought so.

Considering events in Iran in the past three years – and, particularly, in the last month of intense protests against the government – we can assume that the numbers are even more striking that the study indicates. Even without taking current events into account, we can also assume that the fact that the government conducted the survey most likely that the approval of mandatory hijab and chador wearing is in actuality much lower.

Yet the most surprising aspect about the study is the fact that it was released at all. The president’s office has been sitting on this data for three years. Yet, at the same time as women are being arrested by Iran’s religious police for anti-hijab protest (and those images are being broadcast around the world), President Hassan Rouhani decides to release the study.

Is this a political tactic to distance himself from the hardline establishment? Does he feel a political wind in the Islamic Republic indicating that the mullahs are not as much in charge as they would like to be? Or will the move backfire, taking him down as a symbol of the regime that seems to still be in comfortable control?

As noted by USA Today,

In December, Rouhani published the government’s budget in full, claiming it was in the name of transparency. The president ran as a reformer, and hoped that anger at his lack of real legislative change would be tempered by revelations about how much funding the government is obligated to pay religious institutions and some of their employees.

The move backfired and Iran erupted into protests against the political establishment as a whole, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the aftermath of the country’s contested 2009 presidential election.

Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, while the U.S. State Department tweeted out their support of the people of Iran protesting against women being forced to wear hijabs, women around the world burned their hijabs in solidary with the protesting women in Iran.

Using the hashtag #NoHijabDay (as response to last week’s World Hijab Day), women who had been forced to wear hijabs growing up posted videos of themselves removing their hijabs and setting them on fire.

Watch a video of  Arab-Canadian writer Yasmine Mohammed taking off her hijab and burning it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t1agl1kUlIY

Watch this video of Anoud Al Ali, who now lives in France, burn the hijab and cloak she was forced to wear growing up in the United Arab Emirates. The video also documents Iranian women protesting the regime:

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MS
Meira Svirsky
Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org

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