Mahsa, Hijab and Iran
Mahsa (Jina) Amini, a 22-year-old women who was in a coma after being arrested by the Tehran morality (or hijab) police, died due to the severity of her injuries. Last week, Mahsa was walking in the streets of Tehran like any other person when she was arrested by the police for her hijab. Mshsa’s brother told the media that the police violently arrested her and at that time they sprayed gas in their faces.
Iran’s police officials immediately claimed that Mahsa suffered a heart attack, but the family denied any history of heart disease. According to the hospital where Mehsa was treated, she was taken there “without vital signs and in a brain dead state.” Mshsa’s brother published a photo of her and wrote that it was taken an hour before her arrest. Mahsa is smiling in that picture.
During 1980 onwards, the Islamic hijab became a law by order of Khomeini and later as the government legislation and finally law by the parliament. Khomeini had said in a speech, “Muslim women should come out with the Islamic hijab.” This was the beginning of legal pressures on women’s lives in Iran.
The Islamic hijab was made compulsory first in the army, then in administrative offices and educational centers, and then it included the entire society. From the very beginning, there was widespread opposition to this law, but it was met with widespread repression, including imprisonment and killing of opponents. Throughout the past 4 decades, this law has been widely criticized and debated in the society.
The life of Homa Darabi is the one of the most famous women activist against Hijab. She was an Iranian pediatrician, academic, and political activist. She was fired from her job as a professor due to what was defined as an inappropriate hijab, and her medical office was also closed by order of the authorities. She is known for her self-immolation in protest of the compulsory hijab, which led to her death.
In the latest arrest and torture of opponents of the Islamic hijab, Sepideh Reshno was arrested and tortured. She was arrested after removing her headscarf on the bus and arguing with a veiled woman. Iran’s state television published an interview with her a few days later, and she claimed foreign media influenced it. There have been many criticisms of Iran’s state television for airing these type of interviews, which are usually arranged after long detentions and tortures. There was a wide reaction to the broadcast of this interview. There were clearly visible bruises on Sipdeh’s face.
One of the oldest tools used by the government to control women in society is the moral police. A tool used in the streets and public places by the Islamic Republic’s government to keep the society Islamic and sinless by guiding women toward the dress desired by the rulers. Although Iranian authorities claim that hijab is the choice of women, they openly and practically force everyone to wear it.
Women and men who believe in Islamic principles were prompted by the violence of police officers against women to launch a campaign declaring that they are against mandatory hijab, despite wearing hijab themselves. Government supporters disliked this campaign, and by attacking it, the protesters attributed it to foreign groups or historical Shiite opponents.
In the religious attitude of Iran’s rulers, women who do not observe the Islamic hijab are the cause of even drought, earthquakes, high prices and poverty. Friday imams in Iran have stated this issue many times.
As a deeper result, women had fewer opportunities to enter the labor market and their position at production and economy were more restricted. During primitive accumulation, Silvia Federici calls this “the devaluation of women’s work”. Through which Iran’s Islamic capitalism wants to make “motherhood” a major part of a woman’s social responsibilities. Even the sale of birth control devices was criminalized by law. As a result of these policies, wages in general decreased due to an increase in job demand, resulting in a greater gap between men and women’s wages, and women’s further exploitation. From this perspective, moral police go beyond controlling clothing and hijab.
Hijab and Women movement
As the Islamic movement flourished in the 1980s, especially with the rise of Islamists in Iran and the compulsory Islamic hijab law, which created an anti-Islamic and women’s freedom movement in Iran, the issue of the Islamic hijab became a central part of the international discussion of women’s rights.
Following the war on terror policy, the Islamic hijab issue became even more controversial. The hijab became an important political issue not only in the women’s rights movement, but also in the “anti-imperialist”, “anti-racist” and “secularist” movements of the left and right. The status of the Islamic hijab was practically changed from one of the rites of Islam to the most important symbol of Islam and the flag of the Islamic movement.
In Iran, the women’s liberation movement targeted the Islamic hijab as a symbol of women’s inferiority and disenfranchisement. In the West, the secularist movement emphasized the need to abolish the compulsion to observe the Islamic hijab; In the last two decades, however, under the rule of the war on terror policy, racism against Muslims has grown, making the Islamic hijab the primary target of racist attacks, which are also supported by the right-wing secularist movement.
On the other hand, confronting the militaristic policies and state terrorism led many women to wear the hijab as a counter “imperialism”, West and to protest against the militaristic policies of the pole of state terrorism, even defending the rights of the Palestinian people. Therefore, hijab became an important and controversial political issue, not only in Islamic countries but also in the world.
As a result of this reverse “anti-imperialist” policy, the Islamic Republic has been one of the biggest winners and propagandists. It has been the Islamic Republic that has played a significant role in ruling the issue of cultural relativism and Islamophobia. Creating a lobby movement, spending millions of dollars on Islamic propaganda, and engaging in continuous shrewd political activity have been some of the activities of the Islamic Republic.
Attempts by the Islamic regime and the Islamic movement to hold hostage anti-racist people who oppose racist attacks on Muslims have succeeded; Not only was the Islamic hijab smeared as an important tool of oppression and oppression of women, as well as pulling back and creating suffocation throughout society, but it has also become a symbol of protest and rebellion sometimes.
Islamic hijab and the Islamic Republic
The position of the Islamic Republic is different. The Islamic Republic came to power as a result of the failure of an important political revolution. Therefore, the role of Islamic ideology is very important to maintain power for the Islamic Republic. As I mentioned before, the Islamic regime started an all-out political-ideological attack on the society from the moment it came to power. Attacking women was at the top of this strategy.
Gender apartheid became a strong pillar of governance under this regime, which used the Islamic hijab as its political flag. Over the last four decades, the struggle over the Islamic hijab has been a constant aspect of society’s politics. Islamic hijab and gender apartheid have become the two main demands of the women’s liberation movement and cultural liberation movement. The main pillar of repression and suffocation of this regime is attacking women without hijab or wearing “bad hijab.” Critical discourse on the Islamic hijab has never been marginalized in Iranian society.