By Shima Silavi
14 September 2018
In the course of history, women's clothing
has always been one of the first issues that have been exploited by various
ideological systems, and the body of women has been an ideological battleground
between the conflicting fronts. Although the issue of men's clothing is not
entirely exempted from dress codes restrictions, it does not reach the level of
restrictions that women experience.
Throughout the history of Iran, similar to
other countries, the advancement of society has always had a direct impact on
people's clothing. The banning of all Islamic veils in 1936 by Re-za Shah
demonstrates this perfectly by pushing the issue of women’s clothing into the
political sphere. The government actively regulated the anti-veiling law, and
as the final effort, to completely eliminate it by physically removing it from
In the years before the fall of the Shah,
some women appeared publicly in hijab to display their opposition with the
In fact, the veil symbolized a political
message, but after the fall of the Shah's regime, one of the continuing
challenges faced by Iran was enforcing compulsory veil in the country.
After the announcement of the compulsory
veil by Ayatollah Khomeini, in 1979, women protested repeatedly in mass
One of the most famous women's demonstrations
took place on March 8, 1979. Between 5,000 to 8,000 protesters were present at
Tehran University. The protest was suppressed by the regime, but women's
protest against this law continues to take place in various forms. The law was
first approved by the Islamic Consultative Assembly in 1983, while only one
year earlier there was no law on the need to preserve Islamic hijab.
At that time, even the groups that
considered themselves to be a part of the elite sector of society did not
oppose Khomeini's actions, and clearly did not support the demonstrations and
activities of women, and regarded the protests as an imperialist plot. Hijab
laws protect the government and it has reached a point in which every citizen
who believes in the ideology of the system allow themselves to interfere in the
privacy of others.
According to law, women can only be present
in public if her body is covered within the limits of the prescribed standards,
otherwise she will be prosecuted. In addition, anyone from the police all the
way down to ordinary citizens are given the right to remark and counter women
who do not follow the dress code standards.
An example of this collision can be seen in
a video that was published recently. The video shows a woman named Fatemeh
Azarfard physically attacking a woman who is sitting in her car without a veil.
After its circulation in cyberspace, the film prompted a public outcry against
such violent encounters.
But contrary to the reaction of the Iranian
people, authorities honored Fatima Azar Fard at a ceremony to prove that in
Iran, systematically and legally, women have no right to choose their type of
Despite a lot of investments in promoting
hijab in Iran and resorting to coercive ways to accept it, a study by the
Centre for Strategic Studies indicates that these efforts are fruitless.
According to the survey, in recent decades, Iranian citizens have seriously
changed the concept of compulsory veil, and about half of Iranians believe
hijab is a "private" issue.
In addition, while in 2006 half of the
statistical community participating in the survey believed that it was
necessary to legally prosecute people without hijab, in 2014 the percentage
dropped down to 39%.
What makes these statistical findings even
more significant is that according to a report by the Strategic Centre, in
1974, just four years before the Islamic Revolution, three-quarters of men
preferred their wives to wear hijab, and only seven percent had a tendency to
have wives without hijab.
The results of another poll, “Opposing or
agreeing on compulsory hijab", conducted by the Ministry of Culture and
Islamic Guidance in 2015, shows that 78.3% of the total population of the
country are in favour of optional hijab and only 21.7% support compulsory
The rule of hijab in Iran keeps women in a
more subordinate position. Every time they leave home they are forced to adjust
their taste in clothing according to the criteria set out in the law, otherwise
facing the consequences either through the police force or ordinary citizens.
The way people choose to cover and dress
themselves results from a mixture of factors that involve religion, culture,
tradition and the environment but when the state abuses its power to change the
natural course of development in society, it is no longer a cultural
production, instead entering the ideological and political field.
In contrast, with what happened before the
revolution, women now demonstrate their opposition to the system and the
governing rules by removing hijab. This should not be interpreted in the narrow
context, but on a larger scale, as a strong front for struggle for freedom and