A new protest by Iranian women was launched against the mandatory wearing of the hijab (the Islamic head covering). Called “White Wednesdays,” the protest involves women wearing a white veil every Wednesday instead of the usual colored hijabs. Men are wearing white ribbons in solidarity.
Since appearing unveiled risks being harassed, arrested or worse by heavy-handed morality police (or hardline citizens) who roams the streets of Iran, wearing a white veil is a safe way of protesting the law.
The protest was initiated by exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad, who is also behind
the popular Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom,” where Iranian women post pictures and videos of themselves outside without a hijab or engaging in forbidden activities such as riding a bicycle.
Many women in Iran put high hopes in the recent re-election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whom they view as a “moderate,” hoping that his second term would see changes to the hijab law.
At campaign rallies for Rouhani, women could be seen “loosely veiled” and holding signs critical of the hijab laws and the morality police. Rouhani’s supporters wore purple wristbands (purple was Rouhani’s campaign color) as well as green wristbands that were holdovers from the 2009 Green Revolution, protest held against that year’s presidential election.
At post-election celebrations, there was a noticeable presence of unveiled women in the streets.
Pushback against the protest has been swift, with at least one influential prayer leader likening the women to prostitutes.
“The white veil, like those green and purple wristbands — they all smell of sedition. They’re all like flags that prostitutes would hang over their roofs in the [Dark Ages],” said Hojatoleslam Seyed Ebrahim Hosseini, leader of Friday prayers in the central Iranian city of Saveh.
Hosseini call the wearing of the hijab one of Islam’s “most pressing issues.”
Legislator Hojatoleslam Abdollah Mazani hit back against Hosseini in a post on Telegram, a social media tool popular among millions of Iranians.
“Those who wore green and purple wristbands were 24 million Iranians who voted for Rohani,” he wrote, adding, “Based on what religious, moral, and legal right do you allow yourself to accuse millions of Iranians of depravity from the sacred tribune of Friday Prayers?” he asked.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty noted that the issue of the appearance of Iranian women and the compulsory wearing of the hijab are frequent topics in the state-sanctioned Friday prayer services, with prayer leaders receiving talking points from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself.