Some weeks ago has been announced that women who break Islamic dress codes will no longer face arrest for it. *
Protests in Tehran against the government. Here we are: just one picture was enough to give the verdict about what is happening there. Exactly there, in an other reality and context different from ours. But we Europeans, we can easily determine why is protesting there as we know everything about everywhere, especially when it comes to Middle East affairs.
Here we are again: as always the main problem is hijab, “an addiction” of Western society when it comes to Islam.
A picture extracted from a video showing a woman fluttering a flag and it was enough for this video to go viral. Mainstream media and newspaper such as Indipendent, Dailymail and La Repubblica directly or indirectly associated this image to the protests going on those days in the streets of Tehran, creating so, as they usually are used to, a narrative related to the hijab. To those kind of media the lives of 21 people died in the protests may not matter, but hijab..hijab does. To them is more important the dress code and how a women violated it by fluttering her white hijab.
From a simple analysis of the picture we can come to the conclusion that is not related to those days protests. We can easily realise that the video wasn’t shooted in the end of December or beginning of January as contrary shows the picture of a women among the teargas which is in coat and boots. At the other hand in the video we can notice people around which are passing by but not protesting. In reality this picture was extracted from a video from the last spring during the campaign known as the White Wednesday (#WhiteWednesday) when women were protesting with a white scarf or wearing something white symbolising their choice of not wearing the hijab.
Transforming an image into the symbol of a protest or revolution means that this image should be so powerful that it can represent the protest or revolution in the most worthy and meritorious form by becoming a representative image of it. In this case we can take as an example the image of the 16-year-old Palestinian Fawzi al-Junaidi (a teen with his eyes covered and holded by tens of Israeli soldiers) or the famous Handala.
So why are people in Iran protesting?
Today’s protests in Iran have nothing to do with hijab or the so-called “freedom of expression”. To prove so first we have to focus on the context which is being referred about: “Iran and hijab”. In the paper “My Stealthy Freedom: Iranian headscarf and Western propaganda” 10 important points are taking into account, when talking about headscarf in Iran and creating western narratives about it, such as: Background, Origins, “Natural” unveiling, “Forced” veiling, Female “resistance”, Distorted perceptions, Laws and definitions, Double standards, Propaganda etc.
By not taking into consideration those fundamental factors we can easily create the typical narrative which runs along these lines: “Iran was a modern and progressive country with a Western-style society, ruled by a patriotic Shah who improved women’s rights and introduced modern clothing, but all his reforms and progresses were destroyed in the 1979 revolution led by radical clerics with help of rural and conservative Iranians. According to the strict Quranic texts, the women were suddenly forced to wear the Islamic veil despite their wishes, all protests were brutally suppressed and the police is still oppressing the women who are fighting against such regressive headscarf laws.“
Let’s make it clear: Women in Iran are not obliged to wear the hijab but they have to respect a certain code of dressing in public spaces this is why we can notice different way of putting hijab from just a simple veil throughed above the head and shoulders which the wind can remove it whenever it happens (rousari) to the black headscarf from head to toes (chador). Second: according to the majority of Muslim scholars the “proper” (defined as something among the borders/hudud-s) headscarf can be the hijab, amira and khimar. While chador and what comes next are the kind of head & face veil which are defined as something preferred/praiseworthy/laudable according to the tradition and culture of a certain country.
What is recuired from this dressing code is hijab but what is actually much more common is the veil/rousari. From the other hand what we face frequently on Western media is the representation of hijab in Iranian film industry, which contributes also on promoting shiia customs and traditions, and in this case we are talking about chador. And last, who won’t respect this dress code will no longer face arrest for it but will be “punished” by attending a compulsory course/speech/hutba.
Let’s come back to the protests
According to different analysts, columnist and specialist in international relations of the most important mainstream media the reasons behind the protest are several, such as: population’s growing frustrations because of financial crises; massive corruption; unemployment; disillusion towards the regime etc. rather than hijab. So, how come people in a country that does not provide employment opportunities, a country facing financial crises, corruption and blocked parliamentary reforms don’t rise up their voice? But no! When it comes to the countries of the East, the whole problem for Western media has been and remains the religion. Religion and hijab: even when it doesn’t enter we will fit it at any cost.
*This article was published at Tesheshi.com on