We have previously discussed the courage of women in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and other Muslim nations in fighting sexist rules that prevent them from engaging in basic acts or pursuing their own futures. As I have said before, these women are the most inspiring civil libertarians of our generation — risking jail and beatings to fight for equality. That struggle is evident in the dozens of arrests of women in Iran who are pulling off their headscarves in public in Iran to fight for the individual choice in wearing the religious cover. One activist Masih Alinejab has gone further to denounce Western feminists and reporters who celebrate the selling of a Barbie doll with a veil while giving minimal attention to actual women fighting the mandatory wearing of such items.
At least 29 people have been arrested in Tehran for protesting the compulsory weari of a hijab. Alinejad told the CBC
“What breaks my heart is just the hypocrisy of all those feminists outside Iran. A Barbie girl wearing hijab can make news for CNN, for – you know, for all media. But millions of girls, from the age of seven, who will be kicked out from a school because of not wearing hijab, they cannot be news.”
She has a point. Indeed, I am disturbed that CNN and other networks are covering little more than Russian investigation 24/7 while this incredible human rights story is unfolding in Iran. (For the record, I have also opposed laws that ban veils and burkas in the West as inimical to religious liberty).
Alinejad in 2014 began an online campaign called “My Stealthy Freedom”where women from Iran post photos of themselves without the hijab. Women in Iran are wearing white clothing and headscarves and removing their hijabs on Wednesdays while using the hashtag #whitewednesdays.
In late December, Vida Mohaved, 31, removed her headscarf on a major street in Tehran and waved it. The mother became the first woman to be arrested for the act.
A poll shows that half of the Iranian support the effort to make wearing of the hijab voluntary. However, as with so many aspects of life in Muslim countries, clerics insist on supporting their religious practices with the power of the state and the threat of arrest. The clear fear is that, absent coercive measures, these medieval practices would fall to the wayside.
The criticism of “barbie feminism” is stinging. The celebration of veiled Barbie and Western women adopting veils and headscarves in solidarity with Muslim women has produced a different response from women struggling against such rules.