Imagine that you are a woman leading a relatively normal life. You take the metro or bus to work or university. You socialize with friends. You may be able to afford a smartphone and enjoy posting selfies on social media. You may sometimes be lucky enough to take walks on the beach and feel the sea air in your hair.

Now imagine that before you step foot outside your front door to do any of those things, you must stop and check that your hair is properly covered with a headscarf and that you have covered up your arms and legs.

This may seem extreme but failing to do so could carry serious consequences for you. You know that, as soon as you leave your home, your body and clothing will be assessed by strangers. You will face “morality checkpoints” where state agents will decide if you have failed to comply with the state’s strict dress code for women. If you “fail” their test, you may be arrested and, in some cases, even tortured and sentenced to a prison term or flogging.

So, every day, before you leave your home, you must decide the level of risk you are willing to take. Do you want to exercise your freedom today and wear what you want, or will you play it safe to avoid arrest, assault and being denied entry to your work place or university?

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In the forty years since Iran’s 1979 revolution, no aspect of U.S. policy toward Tehran has produced more heat—and less light—than the question of external efforts to advance political change in Iran. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stepped squarely into that contested terrain with his speech last year to an audience of Iranian-Americans at the Reagan Library, coming down forcefully in favor of strenuous American and international advocacy but offering little in the way of specific fresh ideas. “While it is ultimately up to the Iranian people to determine the direction of their country,” Pompeo said, “the United States, in the spirit of our own freedoms, will support the long-ignored voice of the Iranian people. Our hope is that ultimately the regime will make meaningful changes in its behavior both inside of Iran and globally.”

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