Recently, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini was brutally murdered by Iran’s “morality police” for “improper hijab.” She died at the hospital three days after her arrest, on September 16, 2022, due to her injuries. Her family reports she was severely beaten by the morality police with repeated blows to the head, both during transport and at the re-education center she was being held at. Her murder has sparked protests across Iran, with powerful images emerging of Iranian women cutting their hair and burning their hijabs.
Unfortunately, many are co-opting her murder for their own agendas, such as claiming that Islam and the hijab is “oppressive.” Others may lack context or background history about this situation that has been brewing in Iran for years. So here are some important things to be aware of when discussing the situation in Iran.
Iran didn’t always LEGALLY require women to wear THE hijab.
- This is a result of the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which was originally an Iranian-led assertion of autonomy against foreign interests and became a state government manipulating religion to control its people.
Muslim women MAY protest to wear the hijab or to not wear the hijab
- These struggles are not mutually exclusive. Women across the world are risking their lives fighting for bodily autonomy. The issue is not intrinsic to the hijab, which Islamically should never be imposed on any individual, but rather the hijab being used as a tool to control Muslim women – whether to force them to put it on, or take it off. The issue is choice.
Iranian women are protesting the use of the hijab as a tool of oppression.
- Iranian women are protesting how they see fit. For some Iranian women, the burning of headscarves is not a symbol of disrespect to Islam, but rather a fierce and warranted symbol of taking back the rights to their own choice from their government.
Iranian women don’t need our saving and “liberation.”
- They are autonomous and are already leading a powerful revolution. Your job as an ally is to support and amplify their fight, not claim it for yourself or project your own assumptions or interests.
The safety and freedom of Iranian women are at stake.
- This is more than a social media movement. Many Iranian women are risking their lives to be at the forefront of an imminent threat to their freedom; many have lost their lives while creating content to amplify their fight. As an ally, you should be mindful of this and use your privilege to share and circulate their voices and keep all eyes on Iran.
This isn’t your convenient opportunity to equate hijab with oppression.
- Iranian women are fighting for their right to choose, whether or not they wear the headscarf, which has been forcibly imposed on them by the Iranian government. Unfortunately, any patriarchal society will find its own means to control women, such as American women’s fight against state governments for abortion rights. Islam is NOT the source of the problem: sexism, corruption, and power are.
FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT THESE ARTICLE RESOURCES
- Middle East Eye: Mahsa Amini: Raisi says Iran must ‘decisively confront’ protesters as death toll doubles
- Al Jazeera: Iran’s pro-government counter-protesters try to change narrative
- Middle East Monitor: Iran arrests journalists, activists over Mahsa Amini death
- Al Arabiya News: Iran arrests 450 protesters in northern province