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The Veil over Choice | The Iran Hijab Conflict

The name, Negin Abdulmaleki, belonging to a 21-year-old medical student at the University of Hamadan, comes forward as yet other addition to the names of female students murdered by the Islamic regime of Iran during the protests against hijab law. Women in Iran, throughout history have been subjected to a number of discriminatory laws, neglecting their basic human rights to choose or live as per their own will. Yet, while other laws continue to highlight the worsening conditions prevalent among women in this country, The Hijab Law stands out most significantly as a symbol of this continuous repression because of its visibility. The 1979 Islamic revolution reintroduced the idea of Hijab law, following which, the wearing of hijabs, a cloth used as a veil/ covering for Muslim women, became obligatory for all Muslim women from April 1983. Since then, all women then became obliged by law, to wear hijab in public, irrespective of their religion. Throughout the years, the Islamic government continued to introduce stringent additions to the already repressive Hijab law. The hijab law further gave powers to the Morality police - known formally as "Gasht-e Ershad" (Guidance Patrols) - who were tasked, among other things, with ensuring women conform with the authorities' interpretation of "proper" clothing. Officers gained the power to stop women and assess whether they are showing too much hair; their trousers and overcoats were too short or close-fitting; or they are wearing too much make-up. Punishments for violating the rules included a fine, prison or flogging. Such stringent, highly repressive laws naturally gave rise to numerous protest throughout the country. Making the internal environment of the country extremely unstable, unreliable and fragile. An article written on the Iran protests by India today, starts with the lines -: “Sparked by the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old girl in the custody of the morality police, Iran has turned into a cauldron of raw, bubbling rage, both old and new” Mahsa Ahini, a 22-year-old girl, died on the 16th of September 2022 in a hospital in Tehran, and it was her death which triggered the Anti hijab protest, which reaches to the start of its sixth week today. While it was Mahsa Ahini whose death sparked this protest, the land of Iran continues to bleed the death of many hundreds of females, murdered, tortured and jailed by the morality police under this hijab law. In present-day Iran, there are hardly any clerics who openly reject the hijab, though some have advocated more flexibility in enforcing it in the interest of the changing times. The Iranian population remains divided over the concept of veiling, and the importance of hijab. While there are some who believe that the Quran specifically mentions repeatedly the concept of hijab, there are others who argue it is not about mandatory veiling but rather the separation and modesty of women that it is to be safeguarded. A 2020 survey found that 58% of Iranians do not believe in the hijab altogether. Around 72% opposed the compulsory hijab, while only 15% insist on the legal obligation to wear the hijab in public. The above shown numbers and statements are important as it highlights the public opposition the law. The word compulsory, remains the most important aspect of this entire protest, as women continue to fight for their rights to choose whether or not to wear the hijab. To conclude, it is not the wearing of hijab which poses the problem, it is the compulsion or the forcefulness of the law. Women, should be granted the Freedom of Choice. While males in almost all countries are free to wear what they want to, it is the females who are required and at times, forced to upheld their culture or traditions, preventing them to wear or say what they want to. These kinds of discriminatory laws remain as a residue of the patriarchal society that still remains prevalent in parts of many countries throughout the world. B. R Ambedkar once said, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.” Therefore unless, women in a society are given the right to choose or the freedom to live the way they want to, no society or country can ever develop as a whole.

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