A controversial new Facebook page called, “My Stealthy Freedom,” has enraged quite a few clerics across the Islamic Republic of Iran. The page features daring Iranian women who posted their pictures on the page shedding away the mandatory hijab. In Iran, it’s a criminal offense for women to go out in public without wearing the hijab.
The controversy began when Masih Alinejad, a UK-based Persian journalist, posted a picture of herself driving in her car without the head covering, reminiscing in a moment of freedom. Had she been in Iran instead of United Kingdom, the act could have landed her in jail. Nevertheless, she asked other Persian women to join her in a moment of stealthy freedom, the response to which was overwhelming. The Facebook page has drawn almost 300,000 likes and has gone viral among Iranian women wanting to share their own stealthy moments of freedom.
The response is a clear gesture by women who oppose the compulsory hijab. These women have knowingly subjected themselves to the dangers of being caught by the Iranian morality police in an outright defiance of local law and possibly get lashed or ending up doing two month’s worth of jail time. Though Facebook is banned in Iran, the public still manages to circumvent the blockade by using proxies and manages to share experiences and express their opinions.
Support for the Facebook page, and for the Iranian women who have dared to post their pictures on it, is pouring in from all corners of the world, and from within Iran itself. The sheer number of “likes” and comments on every posted picture run into hundreds and thousands. Even some men from Iran have supported the page and expressed their desire for women in Iran to be given more freedom.
The Facebook page mentor, Alinejad, has been the subject of severe criticism by the conservative Iranian media and labeled an anti-revolutionary. Recently, about five hundred protesters took to the streets in Tehran and protested against the prevailing immorality. The clerics and hardliners are soliciting a tougher stance by the government in enforcing modesty laws. In Tehran, a prayer leader citing an indirect reference to the notorious Facebook page, instructed men that, as Muslims, it is their moral obligation to control women and girls within their sphere of influence from sinning in this manner.
According to Alinejad, the hijab is abused as a tool for controlling Iranian women and subjecting them to unsolicited humiliation. Iranian men are not willing to let go of this control at any cost but it is really only a matter of time before women will demand equality in Iran, for which there is ample support in the Holy Qur’an. The biggest fears among Muslim clerics are rooted in the fact that, if they relax their laws, women would end up asking for freedom at par to the women in the West. Alinejad, an outspoken Iranian journalist in exile, may have inadvertently set a ball of revolution rolling by inspiring thousands of Iranian women with her Facebook page, “Stealthy Freedom,” to taste freedom, may it be even for a brief moment.
by Omar Khan