Page 3 Profile: Masih Alinejad, journalist


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The Independent Online

Is something missing from this picture?

That depends on who you ask. The London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad has inspired hundreds of women from her home country to remove their hijabs by setting up a Facebook page dedicated to those who want to share “stealthily” taken photos of themselves without the headcovering. As of last night, about 160,000 Facebook users had ‘liked’ the Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women webpage.

Is this part of a political movement?

While Alinejad, 37, has been politically active from a young age – she was arrested for producing leaflets critical of the government in 1994 – she has stressed that the page is apolitical and is simply a space for Iranian women to come together in solidarity.

But she’s anti-hijab?

Not as such. Alinejad, who was born in Ghomikola, a small village in northern Iran, and moved to the UK in 2009 after being forced into exile for exposing an expenses scandal in the Iranian parliament, says she is not opposed to the hijab – her mother wears a veil. But she believes people should have the freedom to choose whether or not to wear it. “I have no intention whatsoever of encouraging people to defy the forced hijab or stand up against it,” she told The Guardian. “I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say.”

If they don’t like it, can they not simply refuse to wear it?

Under Iran’s Islamic sharia law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures and “protect their modesty”. Punishments for violators include fines, imprisonment or even lashing. “My hair was like a hostage to the government,” Alinejad told the BBC. After posting images of herself with no veil on Facebook, she began receiving pictures from other uncovered women, so she decided to set up the Stealthy Freedoms page: “These are not female activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts.”

What are they saying?

One woman pictured with her bicycle in the park wrote: “Doing sports without limitations is my right.” Another said: “It is painful… that I have to be covered so that your weak faith does not break.” Another simply posted: “Stealthy freedom means, just for a few seconds, I will be what I want to be.”