Recently, a new social media campaign has started in Iran and it goes by the hashtag #whitewednesdays. Citizens are taking to various social media platforms to post pictures of themselves wearing white garments on Wednesday. According to reports, this social media campaign is a form of protest against an unethical law that mandates women to wear headscarves or hijab always.
An initiative of Masih Alinejad – a journalist who is also the founder of My Stealthy Freedom, an online movement advocating freedom of choice – #whitewednesdays is now in its fourth week and invites everyone irrespective of their background and gender to wear the color of peace on Wednesdays and oppose the compulsion dumped on the citizens by the government.
Interestingly, an imposition as such would have been strange to think of even four decades back. It may be recalled here the great freedom Iranian women used to have and advocated back in the 1970s. From wearing mini skirts to sleeveless tops, women were free to wear and do everything. However, the situation became grim and intolerable after the Islamic revolution in 1979 which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. Thereafter women were not only forced to wear a hijab to cover their hair – following the strict mandate of the Islamic laws of modesty – but were also debarred from using makeup or wearing anything that did not cover their knees. The protests and demonstrations that rocked the once peaceful nation have still not subsided. And a glimpse of this is seen through My Stealthy Freedom.
Announcing the beginning of the campaign on May 24, Alinejad took to My Stealthy Freedom’s official Facebook page to convey certain important words that read:
This campaign is addressed to women who willingly wear the veil, but who remain opposed to the idea of imposing it on others. Many veiled women in Iran also find the compulsory imposition of the veil to be an insult. By taking footages of themselves wearing white, these women can also show their disagreement with compulsion.
My Stealthy Freedom is three years old now and, within this span, they have received more than 3000 photographs of women surrendering their hijabs in an attempt to live freely.
And honestly speaking, this is not just about women getting to wear their minds. This is about the basic rights of women. Can a woman be designated as bad and evil if she does not have her hair or legs covered? Or, if she dances to western tunes to just keep her body fit and mind happy? Recently, another shameful incident on the same lines rocked the nation.
On August 10, a group of six men and women were arrested by the Iranian Police for they were seemingly trying to usher in major “lifestyle changes” to the Islamic country by teaching a handful of students Zumba dance. According to an officer of the Revolutionary Guards, Hamid Damghani:
The members of a network teaching and filming Western dances have been identified and arrested….They were arrested by the Guards’ intelligence forces while teaching and creating video clips… as they sought to change lifestyles and promote a lack of hijab.
In fact, women in Iran are even prohibited to dance in front of men, except their immediate families. But it seems the matter has come to be even worse in recent times with even women’s gymnasiums being debarred from teaching women the art of dancing for the sake of fitness.
In June this year, Iran’s sporting federation termed Zumba along with few other dances “illegal” as they included “rhythmic motions and dance and are unlawful in any shape and title”.
Since childhood, we have often come across the word “progression” and were made to believe that with time, everyone, and everything, is bound to progress and not derogate. But with certain countries like Iran enforcing such compulsive notions on its citizens, especially women, we wonder where the world will be in 50 years time!