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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
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Has Iran Successfully Suppressed the Hijab Protest?

Filed under: Iran

Has Iran Successfully Suppressed the Hijab Protest?
Portrait of the murdered Mehsa Amini, beaten last year in a Tehran police station. She had been arrested for “improper hijab.” (Ernesto Yere)

The Iranian government believes it will quash the women’s “Woman, Life, Freedomhijab protest movement, as President Ibrahim Raisi pledged to eradicate the phenomenon of hijab removal just days before the first anniversary of the protest’s outbreak.

Anticipating the potential for renewed demonstrations, the Iranian regime is determined to crush any protests with extreme force, aiming to eliminate the issue from public discourse.

Iran is tensely approaching the one-year mark since the tragic death of 22-year-old Mehsa Amini, a Kurdish woman, who died during a visit to Tehran on September 16, 2022. The Iranian Morality Police detained her for alleged improper hijab-wearing. She was brutally killed during her detention.

After Amini’s death, a tsunami wave of protests dubbed the “Hijab Protest,” surged throughout Iran.

Over several months of intense demonstrations, more than 500 protesters lost their lives, and more than 20,000 individuals were arrested. Shockingly, seven protesters were executed following convictions for assaulting Iranian security personnel.

During these tumultuous protests, the “Basij” forces, an Iranian “Revolutionary Guards” auxiliary branch, was mobilized. They suffered the loss of 70 security personnel.

Mehsa Amini’s death has become a symbol of resistance against Iran’s dictatorship and the oppression of women within the country.

A Forced Hijab Is Not Just a Piece of Cloth

Iranian women have been challenging the mandatory hijab law since its enactment after the “Islamic Revolution” in 1979.

The movement gained momentum, especially after 2017 when Vida Movahedi climbed on a utility cabinet in Tehran, attached her white headscarf to a pole, and brandished it as a protest flag. She, and the women who emulated her, were punished and served time in prison.

Vida Movahedi held a one-woman demonstration against the Burqa on Revolution Street in Tehran
“The Girl on Enghelab (Revolution) Street” in Tehran, who started it all (VOA video grab)

In the past year, the Iranian regime brutally suppressed the protests that erupted after Mehsa Amini’s death, utilizing violence, including live ammunition. According to Associated Press, mysterious toxic gas poisoning hit almost 300 girls’ schools around the country.

Despite succeeding in quelling the protests, a sense of discontent simmers beneath the surface, threatening to erupt anew on the anniversary of Amini’s tragic death.

Iran’s security forces are already preparing for the possibility of renewed unrest throughout the nation.

Despite years of persistent protests, the hardline Ayatollah regime remains steadfast in its staunch opposition to the popular demand for the freedom to choose whether or not to wear the hijab.

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, infamously known as “The Butcher of Tehran,” declared just last week his commitment to eradicating the practice of hijab removal in the country. During a press conference commemorating fallen Iranian “Revolutionary Guards” in Syria and Iraq, Raisi confidently proclaimed: “There is no need for concern; we will undermine the hijab removal movement.”

President Raisi’s words insinuated that the protest was not spontaneous but organized and intentional, hinting at the regime’s intentions to confront anyone involved in what they perceive as a scheme by Iran’s adversaries.

The Iranian regime has historically accused the United States, Israel, and the United Kingdom of fomenting protests against the government.

The Iranian parliament is contemplating a new law imposing unprecedented penalties on women who choose to discard the hijab.

However, the legislative process in Iran advances slowly, as some parliamentarians fear backlash from constituents in the upcoming February parliamentary elections.

Last month, following ten months of protests, the Iranian Ministry of Interior reinstated the patrols of the “Morality Police” to address the growing trend of hijab removal among Iranian women.

Employing a combination of surveillance cameras and artificial intelligence, Iranian police can identify women who do not adhere to the hijab requirement.

Cruel and Unusual Punishments

The Iranian authorities have even shut down businesses, restaurants, and companies that fail to enforce proper hijab-wearing. Women driving without their hijab have had their cars confiscated.

Public spaces are now under the watchful eye of the Iranian police, with officers conducting vehicle and foot patrols to ensure women comply with hijab regulations. Offenders are issued warnings, and legal action is threatened.

In a recent development, Iranian authorities prohibited a short film festival after the organizers paid tribute to artist Sawsan Taslimi by displaying a sticker from a 1982 film in which she appeared without a hijab.

In a noteworthy incident, a civil court judge in the city of Waramin, located in the Tehran province, imposed a fine on a woman who removed her hijab and ordered her to clean dead bodies in a hospital.

Iran’s blatant disregard for human rights persists through its enforcement arm, the “Islamic Revolutionary Guards,” which has become a tool for internal repression.

Despite the harsh crackdown on the hijab protest in recent months, the potential for resurgence remains.

Iranian women persist in defying the edict. They are unwilling to relinquish their quest for freedom and choice.