Women are taking a stand against the mandatory headscarf laws in Iran and elsewhere via a social media campaign, #whitewednesdays. Using this hashtag, people are uploading photos of themselves donned in white headscarves or clothing to mark their stand of solidarity against the country’s headscarf laws. Engineering this online campaign is Masih Alinejad. As founder of the viral movement, My Stealthy Freedom, against Iran’s mandatory dress codes, Alinejad is calling for activists throughout Iran to rise against oppressive and antiquated laws that police women’s bodies and rights.
Prior to 1979, Iranian women were free to wear Westernized clothing. From miniskirts to short-sleeved shirts, women were at liberty to dress however they wanted until the late Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power. Since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, women in Iran have had to cover their hair in public and adhere to specific dress codes outlined by Khomeini’s interpretation of the Islamic laws on modesty.
However, many feel that wearing a hijab should be a personal choice and not a mandate. To address this issue, Alinejad created My Stealthy Freedom, an online space where women in Iran can share photos of themselves not wearing their hijabs. The site is a living archive of the photos and videos shared by these women.
Since its conception three years ago, My Stealthy Freedom has received over 3,000 photos and videos of women and their uncovered heads. To avoid persecution at the hands of Iranian law enforcers, the photos are posted anonymously, but the site serves as an open platform for demonstrators of the movement.
Currently in its fifth week running, #whitewednesdays is garnering a solid following with over 200 videos, some of which are earning nearly 500,000 views. Participants of the online campaign are ecstatic to finally have a viral outlet of expression against the strict dress codes.
“I’m so pumped up to be in this campaign,” said one contributor in a video uploaded to the My Stealthy Freedom site and Twitter account. “I want to talk to you of my imprisonment… they imposed hijab on me since I was seven,” she says. The anonymous woman pauses to shake her headscarf loose before adding, “while I never felt committed to it and won’t be.”
Alinejad is as impressed as the rest of us by the positive outcome and reception of the movement, describing the campaign as a “labor of love.” The activist is also surprised by how far the movement has reached, as some of the photos and videos are from Saudi Arabia, Europe, and even the U.S. “When I expressed my concern about [one contributor’s] safety,” said Alinejad, “she replied that she would rather jeopardize her job than continue living under this oppression that the Iranian women have endured for the last 38 years.”
The activist hopes that the movement will rise into a global concern. Since 2009, Alinejad has lived in the U.S. in self-imposed exile from Iran for fear of persecution. Nevertheless, she believes that her sacrifices are worth the fight for women’s liberties.
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