Women in Iran are Cutting Their Hair and Burning Hijabs in Protest Against Oppression

Across Iran, women are leading the charge in massive protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini. Morality police, who enforce the proper use of hijabs in public, arrested the 22-year-old in Tehran on September 16, 2022. Not long after she was taken into custody, she was dead. Now, women throughout the country are taking to the streets, burning their hijabs, and cutting their hair in protest.

Amini, who was visiting the capital with her family, was in a detention center receiving educational training on hijab rules when she died. Officials say that she had a heart attack, but family members state that she was in perfect health, and witnesses told the family that security forces had beaten her. She was taken to the hospital and went into a coma. A photo as well as videos of Amini in the hospital—with blood pouring from her ear—were circulated widely and sparked even more horror.

Conservatives came to power two years after Iran's 1979 revolution and made it required for all women and girls over age 9 to wear a hijab. Over the years, this rule has been enforced, though often loosely. Since ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi was elected president a year ago, hijab enforcement by the morality police has noticeably tightened. Even small infringements, like too many strands of hair being visible, are being enforced. In the months leading up to Amini's death, social media videos have shown women being dragged into vans by the morality police.

Amini's death appears to be the tipping point. Many young Iranian women see themselves in Amini. “I keep thinking Mahsa could be me; it could be my friends, my cousins,” a 20-year-old protestor named Yasi told The New York Times. “You don’t know what they will do to you.”

And now, women are taking to the streets. They're walking with their heads uncovered, lighting bonfires and burning their hijab, and cutting their long hair in a demonstration to show that the government cannot control them. And many men are joining in as well.

However, protestors are paying for their defiance. Videos have shown the morality police beating and shooting pellets at protestors. Thousands—both men and women—have been arrested, and some have been killed. But, for many, the sacrifice is worth it. The hijab is a symbol of wider discrimination and social restrictions that women face.

Anger toward the government cuts across the entire population. For instance, Yasi's mother, Minoo, willingly wears a headscarf. Yet, she signed a petition created by religious women to outlaw the morality police and overturn the hijab law.

“We can’t impose what we think on one another,” she said. “I’m religious, but I’m fed up with the hypocrisy and lies of this regime treating us ordinary people like dirt.”

As the protests show no sign of slowing down, several internet outages in Iran have been reported. This hasn't stopped word of the growing crisis from leaking out. A generation of young Iranians is seizing the moment to ensure that their voices are heard.

“The anger isn’t over just Mahsa’s death, but that she should have never been arrested in the first place,” said Shadi Sadr, a human rights lawyer who campaigns for the rights of Iranian women. “Because they have nothing to lose they are standing up and saying, ‘Enough of this. I am willing to die to have a life worth living.’”

Women across Iran are burning their hijabs and cutting their hair in a massive protest.

Many are taking to the streets and simply walking without their hijabs—an act that is illegal.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was being detained by the morality police at the time, sparked public outcry.

For many, the hijab has become a symbol of oppression that women in Iran face.

Artists around the world are also showing their support.


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h/t: [The New York Times]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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