French journalist confronts President Rouhani with picture of an Iranian woman without a hijab

Iranian President was asked if he found picture from the My Stealthy Freedom campaign against enforced hijab 'offensive' 

Heather Saul
Thursday 12 November 2015 17:28 GMT
Rouhani was confronted with this picture
Rouhani was confronted with this picture

An Iranian journalist who launched a ground-breaking Facebook page against enforced hijab scored a small victory on Wednesday after President Hassan Rouhani was confronted with a picture of woman without a headscarf from her campaign.

Women across Iran share pictures and videos of themselves without headscarves on Masih Alinejad’s My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page, which now has over 900,000 followers.

Ms Alinejad, an Iranian journalist based in New York, launched the Facebook page as a stand against the repressive laws enforced against women in Iran. Her campaign has rapidly grown into an internationally recognised movement, with increasing numbers of women sharing their moments of ‘stealthy freedom’ on her site.

President Rouhani became familiar with one of these images during an interview with David Pujadas a journalist for France 2, and Jean-Pierre Elkabbach, a journalist for Europe 1, on Wednesday.

A journalist shows Rouhani the image

Mr Pujadas presented Rouhani with a woman holding a scarf high above her head and asked Rouhani if he felt shocked or offended by it.

According a translation obtained by The Independent, Rouhani replied: “What an issue! We have so many issues so we don't have time for these things. Everyone in Iran is free in their own private lives to do as they please. But when someone lives in Iran, they should abide by the laws of the country.”

عکس یک زن ایرانی از صفحه آزادی های یواشکی جلوی صورت روحانی بالا می رود در دفتر خود رییس جمهور در ایرانخنده های کمی عصبی...

Posted by Masih Alinejad on Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Rouhani refused to back down on the law or praise more progressive Muslim countries such as Turkey and Morocco, where women who do wear the hijab do so out of choice.

He said rules around enforced hijab should be dealt with by lawmakers in Iran.

“In every country there are rules for the society. There are a number of rules for men and women on dress code and I am responsible to obey the laws,” he said.

“The laws are made in Parliament and it is the lawmakers in the parliament who approve the laws and all the people must respect the law.”

Last week, a popular Iranian actress was denounced by the Iranian Government for joining the protest by unveiling on her Instagram feed. Sadaf Taherian, who is now living in Dubai, has allegedly lost her work licence because she refused to remove the photos, effectively banning her from appearing in Iranian television and film.

Ms Alinejad said she was thrilled an Iranian woman’s voice has finally reached the President’s ear.

She told The Independent: “It shows that women on My Stealthy Freedom can now became the main agents of change in Iran and no one can ignore them.

President Hassan Rouhani is kicking off a landmark trip to Europe (AFP/Getty Images)

“I wish that I as an Iranian journalist was sat next to Rouhani to ask him the same question, by also reading him some excerpts from his own memoirs to remind him that he himself was one of the staunch architects of the mandatory dress code.

“Rouhani stated that in Iran everyone was free to do whatever he or she wanted in his or her private life. However, he continued, when someone lives in Iran, they should abide by the laws of the country.

"This is not true because the morality police always attack the private mixed parties and arrest boys and girls just because of their lifestyle. We are not allowed to do live the way we want as he mentioned.”

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