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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The video of a woman riding a bicycle while unveiled and giving victory “V” signs has electrified Iranian social media.  The unknown woman from the town of Najafabad, near the city of Isfahan, has been arrested according to the security services.

In most of the world, a woman riding a bicycle is hardly newsworthy. But in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where women are treated as second class citizens such an act is tantamount to calling for a revolution.

Such is the nature of the oppression in the Islamic Republic that women removing her compulsory hijab and riding a bicycle are regarded as acts of rebellion.

The Islamic Republic’s laws do not differ much from those of the Islamic State Caliphate, with draconian morality rules for women. Although women have been pushing the limits of the dress code for decades, the regime clamps down on  women who are deemed to be “badly veiled”.

The White Wednesdays campaign against compulsory hijab is a platform for women who resist compulsory hijab laws. The Islamic Republic is terrified of such acts of civil disobedience. That’s why six women were given more than 100 years prison sentence.  

Mojgan Keshavarz was given a sentence of 23 years and six months, while Monireh Arabshahi and her daughter Yasaman Aryani were each sentenced to 16 years of incarceration

For now, the identity of the woman on the bike is shrouded in mystery. But her brave act has energized Iranian women everywhere.

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