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Why The Women’s Movement In Iran Could Lead To A Real Change Unlike Similar Ones Elsewhere

Although women have been trying to oppose the hijab for years, there hasn’t been such open demonstration before. In fact, this protest didn’t erupt all of a sudden, it’s an accumulation of the atrocities inflicted in the past, continuing till the present.

Of late, the Hijab controversy has stirred a lot of tension. Women in Karnataka are demanding their right to wear the hijab, which is a part of Islam. They believe, as female students, they should be allowed to wear the hijab in their classrooms.

The Karnataka High Court claimed that hijab is not an “essential” practice in Islam. It also said that a uniform dress code should apply for all the students to ensure equality. Judges defending the petitioners against hijab ban claim that it is their right to dress as much as they want to, and that the state of Karnataka cannot barter the girls’ right to education with their right to practice their religion.

At the same time, in Iran, women are burning their hijab and chopping their hair as a mark of protest against the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22 year old woman in custody, arrested by morality police, for not wearing her hijab. They are demanding the removal of the compulsion over them to wear the Hijab at all times, that too in the “proper” manner.

Clearly, these are two contrasting facets of the same issue

To begin with, we need to get to the crux of the problem, that is common to both – Choice. In both the cases, there is force and imposition on women to wear or not wear the hijab.

Talking about India, a democracy and a constitution that claims to be secular, tolerant and allows its citizens to practice their religion, should not impose such a ban, as to not wear the hijab. It’s their choice, whether or not hijab is an essential practice in Islam.

As rightly pointed out by the petitioners’ judges, the state cannot barter one fundamental right with another- even prisoners have some fundamental rights that should be respected. There’s no reason why wearing a hijab is going to violate equality in classrooms. Given that logic, even turbans and headgears worn by Sikh men shouldn’t be allowed. In fact, studying with a diverse group of people is what’s going to help students appreciate differences and develop tolerance for other religions.

Now here comes a complicated question

How do we know if it’s the girl’s choice in the true sense, or  a mental conditioning since childhood that hijab is an indispensable part of her life? I mean, if you’ve grown up in a household that teaches you to wear the hijab all the time, since childhood, it becomes an integral part of your life. You know that’s what your household and your religion wants you to do, failing which you’ll not get acceptance in your house and your community.

It’s your choice, because you really don’t have any other choice.

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No, I don’t mean to question the practices prescribed by any religion or insult any religion, but looking at the issue in this perspective is really essential, to understand the true meaning of choice. This may not be true, but this is just one way to look at it.

The other scenario is that the girl isn’t forced to wear the hijab, but is doing so out of her own will and respect for Islam, and the girls in Karnataka are citing exactly this reason.

Let’s then look at the protests in Iran

Coming to Iran, where women are burning their hijab and chopping off their hair.

Here again, their right to choose how they dress is being violated. Women are being forced to wear the hijab, and that to in the proper and prescribed manner. Why should women be dictated what to wear and what not to? Is the arrest and torture of a woman justified just because she wasn’t wearing hijab? Of course not, this goes against the basic principles of freedom and right to choose.

The women’s protest in Iran is targeted at ending this dictatorship over their lives. It is definitely going to be a huge revolution seeking to end the compulsion of the hijab. Many protesters have already been killed.

A young woman in Tehran, who said she has continually participated in the past week’s protests in the capital city, said the violent response of security forces had largely reduced the size of demonstrations. “People still are coming to the streets to find one meter of space to shout their rage but they are immediately and violently chased, beaten and taken into custody, so they try to mobilize in four- to five-person groups and once they find an opportunity they run together and start to demonstrate,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

A women’s movement, this time supported by men

Although it’s a women’s movement, men are supporting them as well, which makes it a perfect example of a feminist movement.

Well, to others hijab is only a veil or a cloth, but for the women of Iran, it’s a mark of repression. The Iranian Republic dictates compulsory hijab for women in public, that should completely hide their hair. Although women have been trying to oppose this for years, there hasn’t been such open demonstration before. In fact, this protest didn’t erupt all of a sudden, it’s an accumulation of the atrocities inflicted in the past, continuing till the present.

The death of the young girl in custody just gave vent to the long suppressed feeling of anger. Women in Afghanistan are also protesting, manifesting their solidarity. The authorities are trying their best to oppress the protesters, but how long are they going to oppress the ideas of liberty and emancipation, that seek the end of such draconian laws that control the lives of women? Didn’t most of the social revolutions begin this way in the past?

While it remains to be seen what form the protest takes eventually, Muslim women, both in Iran and India, are now sending a strong message to their societies-They have their fundamental rights as humans to live their live the way they want, and no power or authority can force them to be slaves of their commands.

Image source: Twitter

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kshama Misra

Int. M.Tech @ NIT Rourkela. read more...

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