Iranian mother and daughter defy fatwa on women cycling in video message

'We’re not giving up cycling – it’s our absolute right'

Harriet Agerholm
Tuesday 20 September 2016 17:09 BST
Mother and Daughter in video message defying fatwa on cycling in public in Iran

A mother and daughter have bravely filmed themselves cycling in an Iranian city in defiance of a fatwa that says it is a danger to women's "chastity".

The fatwa, which has been announced by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, prevents women from cycling because it “exposes society to corruption”.

The video shows two women wearing hijabs and face veils cycling on a road in what they say is Kish, an island territory belonging to Iran.

“My mum and I are from Tehran,” the woman holding the camera says.

“Bicycle riding is part of our lives. We heard [Mr] Khamenei’s fatwa banning women from cycling.

“We immediately rented two bicycles to say we’re not giving up cycling.

“It’s our absolute right and we’re not going to give up.”

The video appears on the Facebook page of the social media movement My Stealthy Freedom, which campaigns for women’s rights, including the right not to wear the hijab.

Announcing the fatwa on women cycling in public, Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei told state media: "Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women's chastity."

Mr Khamenei has previously said the only “role and mission” of women should be “motherhood and housekeeping”.

Cycling has long been a controversial activity in Iran. Although the activity does not have a defined penalty in Iran's legal code, modesty laws are often used against women who cycle.

Thousands of undercover agents and morality police patrol the streets to check for women who are deemed not to be wearing “modest" clothing.

In May signs appeared that said: “bicycle riding for women is prohibited”. Police officers have previously stated that those flouting the rule would be prosecuted.

In July, a group of women were arrested for riding bicycles in Iran and made to sign pledges that they would not repeat the “violation”.

What's life really like in Iran? Films offer rare insight

A recent report by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the human rights situation in Iran had worsened.

It mentioned proposed laws, drafted by Mr Khamenei that would restrict access to birth control and force women to undergo dangerous underground abortions.

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian writer and founder of My Stealthy Freedom, told The Independent the country's government was out of touch with what women wanted.

"I strongly believe that these acts will bring change," she said.

"Women are the main agents of change and as they push for equality we see greater push back from the Islamic Republic.

"Already I've received messages from inside Iran from women who are shocked and want to protest. This fatwa has received much ridicule on social media.

"The fight for equality is a historical process and just in the same way that women succeeded in Europe and the US to win their rights, so will women in Iran.

"As the wheels of history, or the bicycle in this case turn – so will women advance."

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