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'No to Hijab' protests in the West

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

Following #Jina#MahsaAmini 's death, strikes supporting Iranian women's rights have begun worldwide. Many feminists’ organisational groups have expressed solidarity in the fight with women and the protesting people of Iran. However, many also misunderstood what the fight was indeed about.⁣

Iranian activists, journalists, and scholars see the current social movement as a revolution, precisely a women's revolution for their rights and systemic change and freedom for Iran as a country. In many videos from Iran, we see women and girls chanting for the fall of the regime, the end of the dictatorship, and their own right to live the life they chose.⁣

While many Western feminists amplify their voices and fully support this fight, others keep spreading the anti-Muslim sentiment "in good faith." In Western culture, the hijab has been misunderstood as a burden for Muslim women for many years. As Iranian anthropologist Homa Hoodfar points out in her essay on the veil, the so-called "oppression" of Muslim women by religious laws has been used in the West for many decades as a warning sign - if we do not progress, we will be like them. Moreover, the veil has become a symbol of this oppression. Therefore, it is possible that many western feminists posting "no to hijab" slogans see the protests as a cause for a total unveiling instead of a fight for freedom to choose and to put a halt to policing women's bodies.⁣

The Islamic headscarf is a matter of many dimensions. The social, political as well as religious importance of the veil has become a complex matter of not only faith but also women's rights. As Hoodfar describes, historically, women in Iran have been prohibited from wearing the veil, which has restricted their economic and social freedoms. The question arose whether the Western-European ideals of gender roles suit the society of Iran. After the government of the Islamic republic obliged women to cover their hair in 1980, the women of Iran did not oppose this specific law but rather the general imposition of the set gender roles by the state in general.⁣

As feminists worldwide, we must remember that there is not only one right way to progress, and the cultural differences between regions require attention and respect. We support women's freedom of choice and oppose systemic oppression of women and minorities.⁣

Photo © Reuters

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