Iranian Women Are Dressing Up As Men To 'Avoid Morality Police'
The right to self-expression is a challenging feat for women in Iran. With forced veiling in place, if women leave the house without wearing a hijab to cover their hair, they can face penalties and even arrest.
In protest against this restrictive law, which reinforces inequality between Muslim men and women, a number of Iranian women are dressing how men traditionally do in the country and cutting their hair short to avoid being identified as female when out and about.
Anti-hijab demonstrations have been taking place for quite some time, as women go without veiling and public and one woman shaved her head to reject the oppressive, gendered laws. The country's women have even encouraged Western visitors to reject the laws and disregard the modest clothing rules.
Various women have been posting pictures on social media of them out in public with short hair in an outcry against compulsory hijab wearing and to avoid sanctions from the 'morality' police. As the societal war on equal rights continues in Iran, you can't blame them for evading laws to flag up unjust legislation.
Doing so has resulted in grave punishments though: a female politician was banned from entering parliament buildings after photos surfaced of her not wearing a hijab in public. Eight different women were also arrested on May 16 after supporting photos of unveiled women, which in the Iranian 'morality' police's eyes is regarded as spreading “anti-Islamic culture”.
Women's photos of rebellion are being posted on the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, a campaign page used to highlight the fight against traditionalist dress codes.
One of the photos features a woman in jeans and short hair, presenting as a male with the caption:
"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."
The page, launched two years ago, is run by NEw York-based Masih Alinejad, Iranian journalist and activist. Speaking with the Independent, she says:
“Some girls in Iran would rather secretly dress as men to avoid the compulsory hijab and the morality police. So that is why they make their hair short in order to look like a boy and dress like a boy.
“It shows that although the Government arrests women who post their photos without headscarves, women are not afraid and they are following their own lifestyle."
Some Iranian men are also getting involved in the battle. The Independent understands that sports journalist Pejman Rahbar shared a photo of a girl dressed up as a boy at a football match in order to attend without being kicked out.
Appearing as men in public doesn't exactly fully protect Iran's females. Last month the police announced they would be deploying 7,000 undercover enforcement offers to oversee that dress codes are being properly obeyed around the Islamic Republic.
As this clash between women and the police wages on, it's heartbreaking that the last chance at expressive freedom is chopping off their hair – a fixed part of the female identity. However these incredible women are demonstrating true bravery in the fight for divine equality of the sexes.
By Lydia Morrish, published on 23/05/2016