Caspian Region

Activists Urge Iranian Women to Publicly Unveil, as Hijab Supporters Gather in Iran


(Reuters) Iranian rights activists urged women to publicly remove their veils on "National Day of Hijab and Chastity" on Tuesday (July 12), risking arrest for defying the Islamic dress code as the country's hardline rulers crack down on "immoral behavior."


Ceremonies were held across the country to celebrate the "National Day of Hijab and Chastity." In Tehran, women and girls gathered to showcase their support for wearing the hijab.


"We are wearing it of our own will," said Zahra Javaheri, a student.


Under Iran's Islamic Sharia law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. Violators face public rebuke, fines or arrest.


But decades after the revolution, clerical rulers still struggle to enforce the law, with many women of all ages and backgrounds wearing tight-fitting, thigh-length coats and brightly coloured scarves pushed back to expose plenty of hair.


Various styles of head and body covers worn by women were seen in the streets of Tehran on Tuesday.


“Let everyone be free to dress as they wish," said an unnamed woman.


Critics and activists see the establishment's stepped-up efforts to enforce hijab compliance as part of a wider clamp-down on dissent amid deepening resentment over economic hardship at home and growing Western pressure on Iran over its disputed nuclear program.


Waves of the hijab protests have hit the clerical establishment in the past years. In a display of civil disobedience, the hashtag #No2Hijab has been widely distributed on social media for days by Iranians outside and inside the country.


At a gathering at the Azadi sport complex women in full body length covers danced and performed to a crowd of veiled women who were waving flags.


“We want to demonstrate to the women without hijab who promote inappropriate hijab inside our country, that we revolutionary girls have freedom and security with this Chador and inside this Chador," said an unnamed young woman.


The #No2Hijab campaign overlapped with months of protests by teachers, retirees, workers and government employees over unpaid wages, low pensions and sky-rocketing food prices that have hurt the establishment's legitimacy with protesters calling for political change.


Dozens of women have been jailed in Iran for their activism against forced veiling, according to rights groups.


"The National Day of Hijab and Chastity is only an excuse to target women and launch a new wave of repression against Iranian people and in particular women," dozens of prominent women's rights activists said in a joint statement on Monday.


Iran's semi-official Fars news agency said several people were arrested on Monday.