Iran celebrated the 35th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution this year. Many news outlets revisited the cataclysmic event in honor of the occasion, writing about its broken promises of freedom, equality and a better life and impact on US-Iranian relations , among other issues.
To men, the revolution promised a life free of the shah’s despotic control, greater equality, and greater freedom. Women thought Khomeini would give them the same thing: more rights and freedoms, a bigger role in society.
But after its victory, signs began to emerge that the revolution had turned against its female supporters. One of the first clues was the hijab, or Islamic head-covering. It became mandatory, and what followed was a dark era of demotions and restrictions directed at women.
Now, 35 years later, Azadeh Moaveni of The Daily Beast reflects on what the hijab has come to symbolize in Iran. For the revolutionary government, it is a weapon, a means of control. For Iranian women, it has increasingly become an arena of resistance. Sometimes, a viral campaign like #SlealthyFreedom makes the West notice the importance of the struggle; but Moaveni berates the West, especially “progressive intellectual types,” for increasingly popularizing the belief that hijab is “somehow shallow or tangential”:
Western liberals don’t get is that hijab is never simply about hijab, but about power; a government that imposes mandatory veiling is chiefly interested in controlling its women citizens, and whatever pushback that emerges is an act of resistance to that control.
As if to prove Moaveni’s point, the Iranian Majles recently devoted an entire session to “the problem of leggings.” Italian blog ‘No Pasdaran’ pointed out that the subject of leggings was chosen over other matters that may perhaps have been more pressing, such as unemployment. But it was the fashionable female threat that was the lawmakers’ sole focus as they “were shown photographs of attractive girls wearing the popular garment.”
The blog mocked the lawmakers for seeking to ban leggings “in the name of the fight against the West” due to being “unable to contain their sexual excitement.” But for Iranian women, it’s not a laughing matter.