Anti-Hijab Activist Who Became an Icon Might Be Missing in Iran
Her photograph went viral when she defied to law to remove her hijab in public in December.
Footage of the woman standing silently waving her white headscarf, tied to a stick, went viral in December, symbolic of the resistance against forced hjiab in Iran.
Standing alone on a pillar box in the middle of one of Tehran’s busiest streets, she became the poster child of the women’s rights movement against the country’s compulsory dress code.
ويديوي جديد دختري كه شال سفيدش را به چوب بسته و در هوا مي چرخاند #چهارشنبه_های_سفید— My Stealthy Freedom (@masihpooyan) December 30, 2017
This woman standing in a busy street without her headscarf and waving a white shawl has become the latest symbol of Iranian women’s struggle against compulsory hijab#whitewednesdayspic.twitter.com/OGz2LHSYj2
But now, renowned human rights Nasrin Sotoudeh has raised concerns that the woman featured in the iconic footage may have gone missing — and she is convinced she has been arrested.
“What I am certain about is that this lady has been arrested,” Sotoudeh told news agency AFP. “The witnesses on the scene who saw her being taken away and even accompanied her to the police station gave me this information. I have no contact with her family.”
Sotoudeh said the woman seemed to be “at the end of [her] tether, because of all the controls placed on her body over the 31 years of her life.”
“Women feel they have no control over their bodies,” she said. “It is a prelude to infringing on all of their rights.”
No one knows , what happened to the girl , who made a flag from her-own scarf, in Enghelab Street in Tehran! Her action was a peaceful “No” to mandatory Hijab!— Nahid Seif (@NahidSeif) January 17, 2018
She is symbol of courage to us ! #where_is_she#WhereIsShe#WhiteWednesdays#دختر_خیابان_انقلاب_کجاستpic.twitter.com/ZMQxRUaCZb
The unnamed woman has been dubbed the “Girl of Enghelab Street” after the area where she staged her protest, and thousands have shared her image on social media — first, with messages of support for her protest. Now, with messages of concern for her whereabouts.
According to reports in Iran, the woman hasn’t been seen in public since her photograph was taken on Dec. 27 — the day before unrelated economic protests broke out in Iran.
Sotoudeh reportedly told journalists that she had been to the area and asked after the woman, who she was told is a 31-year-old mother-of-one.
Brave 31-yr-old woman stood up against #ForcedHijab w/19 month old child has reportedly been arrested. She is still missing. #WhiteWednesdays persian hashtag #دختر_خیابان_انقلاب_کجاست was retweeted 19K times. We ask international community to join us #Where_Is_She#IranProtestspic.twitter.com/Nuj6R5Yicd— My Stealthy Freedom (@masihpooyan) January 23, 2018
Now a growing movement of people are calling for authorities to reveal her whereabouts, using the hashtag #Where_is_she?
Women in Iran are subject to strict clothing restrictions, which say they must wear a headscarf and long coat when in public.
But the restrictions are facing a growing resistance, through both the “White Wednesdays” movement — which it is believed the woman was referencing to when waving her white headscarf — and the “My Stealthy Freedom” movement, which sees women sharing images and footage of themselves stealthily removing their scarves in public.
In December, however, police in the capital city of Tehran announced that they would no longer detain women who violate the dress code — which also includes a ban on nail varnish, heavy makeup, and loose headscarves.
Instead, according to reports, women who fail to observe the dress code in Tehran would have to attend classes on “Islamic values” given by police. If women repeatedly offended, it was said, they could be subject to legal action.
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