Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Women in Iran are defying the country’s extreme hijab laws from behind the wheel

women-iran-driving-headscarf-hijab.jpg

Ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, women in Iran have been required to wear the hijab in public. However, an increasing number of Muslim women are kicking back against the ruling – by refusing to wear a headscarf while driving.

According to the Guardian’s Iran correspondent Saeed Kamali Dehghan, it is now commonplace to see women driving with their hijabs untied and resting on their shoulders in Tehran, the Iranian capital. And while it might sound like a small act of rebellion, it is infuriating Iran’s “morality police”.

Formally known as Gasht-e Ershad, the morality police are undercover agents hired to enforce Islamic rules in public. They focus predominantly on making sure that women are observing hijab, resulting in the arrests of hundreds and sometimes thousands of Iranian women during the summer months.

Most of these women are urban, educated and middle-class, and stand accused of the crime of wearing “bad hijab” (where the headscarf is pushed as far back on the head as possible). Women who drive with their hijabs loosely tied are regularly stopped and fined, or have their cars seized.

Despite this, police are finding it difficult to force women to wear headscarves in their own cars – in part because of a thorny debate about whether a car constitutes public or private space.


Watch: British Muslim women explain why they choose to wear hijab


“What is visible to the public eye is not private space and norms and the rules should be respected within cars,” said Saeid Montazeralmahdi, a spokesperson for the Iranian police.

He warned that drivers should not try to get around this “norm” by tinting their car windows.


Read more: Meet the inspiring Iranian women who ran a marathon in Tehran


Meanwhile, Hadi Sadeghi, the deputy head of Iran’s judiciary chief, said recently that “the invisible part of the car, such as the trunk, is a private space, but this does not apply to the visible parts of the car.”

Sadeghi’s comments sparked widespread mockery and condemnation on social media. One Twitter user posting a photo of a couple squeezed into the boot of a car, with the caption: “When you say only this part of a car is private.”

However, even Iran’s president, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, has argued that the police should respect people’s private space. Rouhani opposes a crackdown on women wearing the hijab, and has stated that he does not believe it is the police force’s job to enforce Islam.

“The police can’t do something and say I’m doing this because God said so,” the president said in 2015. “That’s not a police [officer’s] business.”


Read more: Muslim teen shares dad’s response after she says she doesn’t want to wear hijab 


Iranian lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told the state news agency Irna that it was not up to police to define what counts as a private space.

“The law says that the space within a car is a private space,” he said. “The government’s citizen’s rights charter [launched by Rouhani] also considers a car to be a private space and it is incumbent upon enforcers to respect that.”

hijab

Iranian women protest the compulsory hijab by wearing white as part of the #WhiteWednesdays campaign.

As well as covering their hair, women in Iran were ordered to stop using make-up and wear knee-length manteaus (a long, loose coat or over-shirt) when the late Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979. More than 100,000 Iranian women and men protested against the new law when it came into force, and opposition to it has never died out.

The current debate about hijabs in cars comes hot on the heels of other protests against Iran’s stringent dress codes. In June, hundreds of Iranian women posted photos of themselves wearing white headscarves and other pieces of white clothing on social media, as a symbol of their opposition to the imposed hijab. Campaigners used the hashtag #WhiteWednesdays.

One contributor, who filmed herself walking down a main road wearing a white hijab, said that she was “so pumped up to be in this campaign.

“I want to talk to you of my imprisonment... they imposed hijab on me since I was seven,” she said, shaking her headscarf loose, “while I never felt committed to it and won't be.”

Images: Rex Features, twitter.com/masihpooyan

Related

iStock-490397986.jpg

5 amazing new memoirs to read on your summer holiday

ramadan-manchester-present-muslim-neighbours.jpg

This Mancunian got the best Ramadan gift from their Muslim neighbours

black and muslim 5.jpg

Viral photo series captures what it truly means to be black and Muslim

More

NASA just paid tribute to Hidden Figures' Katherine Johnson

This is long overdue

by Susan Devaney
25 Sep 2017

Ellen DeGeneres has officially banned Donald Trump from her TV show

Her powerful statement sums up everything that’s wrong with the president

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Sep 2017

Jessica Ennis-Hill unveils baby girl’s incredibly trendy name

The gold medallist announced the news via an intimate Instagram photo

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Sep 2017

All the best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From a star-studded dinner party to Serena Williams’ sweet mother-daughter snap

by Nicola Colyer
22 Sep 2017

Justin Trudeau reveals his surprising feminist inspiration

Bromance brewing?

by Susan Devaney
21 Sep 2017

Some people only just realised that Rihanna’s real name isn’t Rihanna

Erm, did we not all know this already?

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Sep 2017

This is how Salma Hayek is helping Mexico’s earthquake victims

And how you can too

by Moya Crockett
21 Sep 2017

Emma Stone's childhood drawing of her anxiety is so relatable

“I’m bigger than my anxiety”

by Susan Devaney
21 Sep 2017

Twitter was not impressed by Melania Trump’s anti-bullying UN speech

“If Melania Trump really wants to fight cyberbullying, she should just change Donald's WiFi password.”

by Moya Crockett
21 Sep 2017

8-year-old bug enthusiast defies bullies to co-author scientific paper

Sophia Spencer was mocked for her love of bugs – but she’s now a published expert

by Moya Crockett
20 Sep 2017