“Hijab is not mandatory even on Muslim women, let alone on other religious minorities. What requirement? How have our women lived in the villages from the days when Islam appeared? They didn’t wear the chador. … Who in our demonstrations mandated or required our women to come with hijab? They themselves felt the responsibility to do this. But today too nobody has mandated that they wear or not wear a head scarf.”
These are the words of ayatollah Taleghani a month after the Pahlavi monarchy was toppled in 1979 by revolution, as published in Etelaat newspaper. Probably very few people at that time imagined that one of the first acts of the young revolution would be to take away the right of Iranian women to wear their clothing of choice, turning the policing of women’s clothing into a full time job of the Islamic republic. Soon, the media would be banned from engaging in any discussion about the freedom of choice regarding clothes or opposition to thehijab. Soon, many Iranian women would recurrently end up at police stations and enforcement bureaus for displeasing officials over their choice of clothes.
But today, 33 years after the imposition of the hijab in Iran, as the Qom Theological Seminary has put the training of special cadre on the subject of hijab is on its work agenda, and as senior officials of the Islamic republic, particularly those active in cultural issues, still talk of confronting women with “bad hijab” in all sectors of society such as students, workers and even pedestrians – something they have been doing for the past 33 years – a campaign has been born whose slogan and goal is “The Right to Choose the Hijab, is the Right of the Iranian Woman.”
The “No to Mandatory Hijab” is a campaign that was launched on Facebook on July 11, 2012 with the slogan, “Voluntary hijab is the right of every Iranian woman.” The originators of this campaign are liberal students from Iranian universities and 14 thousand people have signed up on Facebook. One of the interesting aspects of this campaign is that its membership includes a variety of political personalities and activists with different and even conflicting political views, opinions, and leanings.