A campaign by a female Iranian journalist to encourage her fellow Iranian women to post photos of themselves without headscarves under the hashtag #StealthyFreedom went viral this week, less than two weeks after the first ground-breaking scarf-less photo was posted by reporter Masih Alinejad.
Since it was posted on May 2, Alinejad’s photo – showing herself driving without a headscarf – has received over 5,500 likes, 150 shares and 260 comments, many of them from women who posted similar pictures of themselves.
The #StealthyFreedom trend quickly spawned a new Facebook page of its own, generating over 150,000 likes in the space of a few days and prompting even more women to share photographic evidence of their secret moments of rebellion. The hashtag also started trending on Twitter, and news of it quickly reached Western ears, appearing in The Guardian, the Huffington Post and the BBC, as well as French-language outlets such as Le Figaro, France24 and even Marie Claire. All posted accounts of Alinejad’s unveiling campaign accompanied by some of the photos shared by her compatriots.
Bloomberg’s Marc Champion took a slightly different angle: he linked the Facebook campaign to the recent abduction and forced conversion of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. Both the feminist campaign and the shocking mass kidnapping, Champion said, proved that religious zealots’ attempts “to deprive women of choice ultimately cannot coexist with rising levels of education,” and will therefore fail.
In Iran itself, the kidnappings were condemned as “inhumane” and “unacceptable,” with an official government statement saying education for women was necessary for the improvement of humanity, and that such acts of extremism served to “smear Islam” more than promote it.
No, a forced standard of modesty can’t be likened to mass kidnapping. But it isn’t freedom, either.