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Hijab wearing vs. Removing the Hijab (India vs. Iran) - A question of choice

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

History is replete with examples of how women and marginalised communities have been at the receiving end in wars and conquests. The trend continues even in the 21st century, wherein modern states continue to impinge upon the rights and choices of women's clothing. Unfortunately, it seems that modern states still cannot give their women the right to choose their clothing or their own beliefs. While 2022 began with girls in Karnataka, India, being prohibited from entering their classrooms because they wore hijabs, women's protests in Iran are being curtailed violently by the state for removing the hijab.⁣

Iran has been convulsing with massive demonstrations following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old Kurdish- Iranian woman, in mid-September. She allegedly died after being detained by the Iranian morality police for what they termed as 'inappropriate hijab,' as it revealed some of her hair.⁣

Since then, universities and secondary schools across Iran have become the flashpoints of protests, with women and girls taking off their mandatory headscarves, known as the hijab.⁣

The Iranian government has responded to the demonstrations with violence, arresting hundreds and blaming 'foreign interests' for instigating the protests across Iran.⁣

Iran's Islamic Republic mandates women to cover up in public, including wearing a 'hijab' that is supposed to hide the hair completely. It was in 1979 that the rule of a compulsory hijab was introduced in the country. Experts believe that during the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the hijab had become an important political symbol of the country' entering the new Islamic era'. However, for decades since then, the hijab has also been seen as 'the lightning rod of opposition, who saw the mandated compulsory hijab as a way of further restricting and imposing women's rights. Although, in contrast, women were forced to wear the mandated hijab, for decades, no choice was given to Iranian women whether they wanted to wear the mandated veil or not. The death of a young woman, citing an inappropriate hijab, testifies to the levels state apparatus reaches to control women's rights and choices.⁣

Similarly, earlier this year, hijab-wearing girls were prohibited from attending schools in Karnataka. In February 2022, the State High Court issued an interim order restraining students from wearing religious attire. When implemented across schools and colleges in Karnataka, the order meant that students and teachers had to remove hijabs and burqas outside school gates. While differing opinions on religion and the modern state and many other reasons can be cited, nothing can justify why women's clothing has to be mandated by the state and why such a personal choice, that of a piece of clothing, whether one wants to wear it or not, be given to the concerned person, that is the woman herself.⁣

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