Iranian women cut hair, dress as men to dodge ‘morality police’

by WorldTribune Staff, May 22, 2016

Defiant women in Iran are cutting their hair and dressing as men to avoid wearing the mandatory hijab and the long arm of the morality police.

“Although the Government arrests women who post their photos without headscarves, women are not afraid and they are following their own lifestyle,” said journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who has shared images on her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom”.

Photo from "My Stealthy Freedom".
Photo from “My Stealthy Freedom”.

Alinejad has shared some of the images on her My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page. The social media campaign against the compulsory hijab she launched two years ago has almost a million followers.

“The Government wants to create fear but women have found their own way to freely walk in the streets of Iran or drive without covering their heads. It is a serious cultural war between two lifestyles. For women, their hair is their identity and making it short to just avoid the morality police is really heartbreaking, but in a way, it is brave,” Alinejad said.

“The head scarf issue often features prominently in the constant tug of war between hard-liners and Iran’s youth society. Iran’s laws require that all women, from the age of seven when they start school, cover their hair out of a traditional respect for culture and morality. But so far, Iranian women are brave to break this discriminatory law.”

Iran recently arrested several women who shared photos of themselves in public with their hair uncovered on Instagram and other social media. Fearing similar repercussions, many women have now made their profiles private.

A politician was disqualified from Iranian parliament after photos purporting to show her in public without a headscarf emerged, despite her insistence they were fake.

In a photo that provoked a particularly strong reaction on Instagram, a woman took a selfie while driving in her car with short hair, without a hijab on, as a man on a scooter rode past.

In another post, a girl appears with short hair and wearing a shirt and jeans. The caption next to the picture reads: “I am an Iranian girl. In order to avoid the morality police, I decided to cut my hair short and wear men’s clothes so that I can freely walk in the streets in Iran.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is said to be more moderate than his predecessors on the hijab, which has been compulsory for women since 1979.

Rouhani, however, has little authority to stop the enforcing of dress codes and when confronted with pictures from Alinejad’s website last year, he would only say those living in Iran “should abide by the laws of the country.”