Over the past few weeks, dozens of women in Iran have stripped off their headscarves in protest of a post-revolution law requiring them to cover their hair in public.
But it turns out, objections to the law are neither new nor restricted to women.
According to a three-year-old report released by President Hassan Rouhani’s office on Sunday, 49.8% of Iranian men and women believe the government should not force women to wear headscarves, the New York Times reported.
Instead, they — like the protesting women whose images have recently circulated on social media — believe that a woman’s choice to wear, or not wear, a veil is a personal and private one, according to the New York Times.
In December, the police chief of Tehran, General Hossein Rahimi, announced that women “who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be taken to detention centres.” Instead of being arrested, women whose headscarves are deemed improper or too loose will be fined, CNN reported.
The relaxing of the policy reflects a trending movement away from hard-line, religion-based laws under President Rouhani, who was elected in 2013.
Though Rouhani once boasted of being the one to introduce the headscarf requirement, he has pushed for more rights and freedoms for the Iranian people since becoming president, according to the New York Times.
In December, images of Iranian woman, Vida Mohaved, waving her headscarf from a pole went viral. Mohaved was later arrested, but her arrest and subsequent release inspired many other women to mimic her act of defiance, CNN reported.
Since then, 29 other women have been arrested in connection with the headscarf protests, Reuters reported.
Observers believe the recent release of the 2014 report by Rouhani’s office is intended to encourage authorities to soften their crackdown on the protestors, the New York Times reported.
“The government wants to show that any crackdown against the veil is illegal and not democratic,” Fazel Meybodi, a reformist Muslim cleric, told the New York Times. “Crackdowns and punishment are not a part of Islam.”
Both on the streets of Iran and online, women are removing their headscarves in protest and calling for the restoration of their rights.
"When we restrict women, and put them under unnecessary pressure, exactly this is the reason for rebellions," Soheila Jaloodarzadeh, a member of parliament, said, according to the news agency Ilna. "This is the reason... the daughters of Revolution Street are putting their headscarves on a stick."
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