Men in Iran are snapping selfies in hijabs to protest the compulsory veiling law that requires all women in the country to wear them.
Donning a headscarf and wearing loose, modest clothing in public to prevent sexual advances from men has been enforced for Iranian women since conservative laws were passed in 1983, following the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Punishments for disobedience can range from detention to lashes, but many women have started to rebel.
Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad launched the social media campaign #MenInHijab to encourage men to play a role in supporting women’s rights and advocating for change by posting photos of themselves with a headscarf. She founded My Stealthy Freedom, an online movement against the enforced hijab, in 2014.
One man who posed for a photo in a hijab beside his unveiled niece described how wearing it evoked a sense of lost identity that was “absolutely unacceptable for any liberated person.”
“I decided to stand by my niece and wear the hijab, because the truth is that I don’t want anyone to take my freedoms away from me, so I can’t be indifferent to violation of freedoms of half of my people,” he explained. “Women, when they leave home for the public everyday, have to leave their real identity back at home, and it’s a horrible feeling to have a double identity for a lifetime,” he added.
“I sincerely want my wife to be able to live in an Iran where she is the one who can determine what she can wear,” wrote another man, pictured next to his wife. “It is indeed extremely difficult for a woman in Iran to endure wearing these clothes in the midst of our sweltering hot summers just because we want to avoid driving the ire of the officials in the country.”
Alinejad takes issue with male legislators dictating how women must dress, which she says ultimately compromises their dignity.
“These are men making decisions for women. They don’t understand what it’s like,” she told The WorldPost. “To be clear, we are not against the hijab. If you want to wear it, you should wear it! Women in Iran don’t have a choice.”
The activist has been blown away by the number of men who have joined the movement since she launched her campaign just over a week ago, but it hasn’t come without some backlash.
“People outside of Iran have reacted [to the campaign] by saying ‘you’re ruining the face of Islam’ or ‘Islam doesn’t actually force anyone to wear a hijab.’ We have to educate them. In Iran, it’s compulsory. In some other countries [wearing a hijab is] just a cultural norm,” she said.
“There are people who say ‘this is a cultural issue, we shouldn’t get involved,’” she added. “No! This is a human rights issue. We have to talk about it. We must not be silent.”
Take a look at these inspirational photos posted to social media of Iranian men showing solidarity with women to challenge enforced hijab laws: