Coronavirus has been wreaking havoc in Iran. The country has long exceeded the threshold of more than 1 million cases. The situation is so grave that authorities had to resort to imposing a night-time curfew in scores of cities. Meanwhile, the government has been blaming sanctions and foreigners for the rapid spread of the virus while ample evidence exists of the Islamic Republic’s criminal negligence in leading to the spike in cases.

Under these circumstances, wouldn’t it be wiser for a cash-strapped government like the Islamic Republic to channel its resources to public health? Well, it seems that even during corona times, authorities in Iran are more concerned with women’s hair and how many strands of it are coming out of women’s compulsory hijab than enforcing the indispensable health measures.

Many Iranian women have been sending us their recent videos of verbal altercations with the morality police chasing them in the streets for their hijab. It has to be borne in mind that while various government services have come to a standstill due to COVID19 and other adverse economic conditions, the notorious and widely-detested morality police have yet to see their budget slashed. 

One of the videos sent to the #MyCameraIsMyWeapon campaign shows a woman being harassed by a female morality police officer in the street for her hijab. Despite the fact that the morality police officer threatened to bring in further reinforcement, the woman was unfazed by the threats; she filmed the entire incident, spurring the morality police officer to hide her face due to the popularity of the #MyCameraIsMyWeapon campaign.

In another video sent to us , airport officials are seen harassing a woman, preventing her from taking her plane to due her hijab. The woman bravely resists them while filming the entire scene. The morality police officers are seen accosting her violently. All of this because of her hijab.

In a third video , a female driver is being accosted by a group of morality police officers who seem to have no intention of letting go of her as her hijab doesn’t cover the entirety of her hair. At a time when the coronavirus infection rate has reached a pinnacle in the capital Tehran, she was accosted while driving to the North of Iran to get away from the pandemic. But as she’s seen saying in the video, even there, what really seems to matter to the officials is her hijab. 

Iranian officials have a track record of allocating large sums of money to reinforce morality rules. However, as Iranian women are increasingly rebellious to such measures, thanks in large part to campaigns like #MyCameraIsMyWeapon and #WhiteWednesdays, the Islamic Republic’s morality drive is doomed to failure.

Did you know that in addition to being the only country in the world imposing a dress code on women, Iran is also the only country in the world that makes it forbidden to them to ride bicycles? Often times, municipalities come up with draconian rules to find out about the best ways of making cycling impossible to women. Just like what the city of Esfahan recently did when it relaunched its bike sharing system.

Why are Iran’s clerics so rattled by the image of women cycling in the streets? Basically, the tenets of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ideology are written on women’s bodies. Controlling their actions in society is part and parcel of how this clerical system projects its power. Women in Iran have been the greatest victims of more than 40 years of the clerical rule. Various clerics aver that women riding bicycles provokes men. In other words, instead of teaching men to control their urges, the system in Iran blames women for exciting men. Just like the way they impose compulsory hijab.

But as in this video, many Iranian women have been cycling unveiled to shatter the foundations of patriarchy in Iran. They have been challenging these clerics in every possible way. This woman is engaging in a double crime in the standards of the Islamic Republic: being unveiled and cycling, freedoms taken for granted elsewhere in the world.

The bravery of Iranian women in the face of misogynist clerics who impose compulsory hijab on them is simply awe-inspiring. Over the course of our campaign, we have received countless videos from many Iranian women overtly walking unveiled in front of clerics in Iran. Despite being verbally attacked and humiliated by these clerics, these women continued their combat and filmed their experience. Such humiliation has been ongoing for more than 40 years now. What we have done is to relay these women’s heroic fight to the entire world so that the world becomes aware of fact that hijab is not merely a piece of cloth. In the hands of dictators, it can deprive women of their agency. Here is a selection of 13 women who fight the verbal abuse of 13 clerics and walk unveiled despite the threats.

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After banning bicycle sharing services in Isfahan for more than a year, these bicycles have been
allowed to return to the streets of this city with two conditions: Women are banned from using
these bikes. The second condition demands that the regulatory bodies have a seat on the
management committee of the Elipco , a software company which provides the application for
the bike sharing system, to ensure no women use the service. Elipco is the only shared bicycle
service in Isfahan.
Isfahan’s office of Promoting Virtue and Prohibiting Virtue, a unit that oversees morality police,
announced in 2018 that women’s cycling was banned in the city and in September 2018, as
many as 100 purple Elipco bicycles were confiscated and three Elipco stations were shutdown.
Now, Hassan Fathi, the project manager of the OLIPCO project, says that after several meetings
with the prosecutor’s office, the company applied to Tehran mayor’s office and received a
permit to operate the service in the capital provided that women do not use them.
In the application, Elipco noted women are prohibited from using the Elipco bike sharing and
regulatory bodies can monitor to ensure no bicycles are provided to women in the panel.

Often times, the issue of compulsory hijab is cast as being a domestic matter. Some in the West, especially certain well-intentioned politicians don the compulsory hijab without asking any questions, thinking that they’re respecting our culture.

When female politicians from the West travel to Iran and wear the compulsory hijab unquestioningly, they are contributing to our repression. They often say they wear compulsory hijab because it’s supposed to be our “culture”. WRONG! Compulsion has never been our culture. There are millions of Iranian women who don’t want to wear hijab. This is the culture of a repressive regime, not ours. Female Western politicians should not normalise this.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has used Western politicians’ submission to compulsory hijab in its dealings with Iranian women to tell them, “look! Even Western women wear hijab when they visit Iran. What are you complaining about?

Many Iranian women feel left out by the West when it comes to their struggles against repression. While Western politicians prioritise negotiating with our oppressors, our cries for freedom fall on deaf ears.

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