Hijab and freedom | eKathimerini.com
A newspaper with a front-page photo of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police, is seen in Tehran, Iran, September 18. [Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters]
Last weekend, I watched the latest episode of “Tehran”, produced by Apple TV. It’s an excellent spy series with action, tension and many twists which, despite its title, was not shot in Tehran, but in Athens: in Kolonaki, Kypseli and on Kifissias avenues and Akadimias, we watch Iranian Security agents chase down Israeli Mossad agents, we see young women rebelling by throwing their headscarves into hidden spaces, but tremble at the sight of the Revolutionary Guards.
The guardians of the Iranian theocratic regime and the guarantors of stability and order are powerful and very influential in Iranian society. The series is quite convincing about the daily life of Iranian women, who are told that they should not provoke with their dress and behavior and who are forced to wear the hijab at work, on outings, at the gym, on the street, everywhere – and they have to wear it properly, hiding their hair.
This is something Mahsa Amini, 22, an ethnic Kurd from western Iran, has not done diligently. She hadn’t carefully covered her hair. She was arrested by the vice squad for wearing an inappropriate hijab and died in custody. Her father claimed he was not allowed to take her body for an autopsy. Authorities have said they will conduct a full investigation into the cause of death, but we can only imagine exactly how that investigation will unfold and how deep it will be.
The aftermath of Amini’s death is now playing out in major cities across Iran. Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets, men and women without headscarves or hijabs, demanding more rights, more freedoms.
It’s been a decade since then, but most of us remember the waves of protest in Europe when France banned women from walking the streets in burqas, hijabs or niqabs, and also banned the burkini – a swimsuit full bathing suit that leaves only the face exposed. Many European women, including in Greece, have passionately supported the right to the headscarf, arguing that no one can dictate to French Muslim women what to wear and what not to wear.
One of the slogans was “freedom is in the hijab”. Yes, if you live in Europe, you might as well shout it at a free speech rally, where of course we put all our rights and freedoms in the same blender. If you are a 22-year-old woman in Iran, you obviously have the opposite opinion. And you might even pay for it with your life.