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Video show Iranian women laughing in face of oppressive driving hijab laws

My Stealthy Freedom founder tells The Independent the women represent a ‘silent majority’

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 20 January 2016 17:47 GMT
Women laughing at compulsory hijab in Tehran

Women in Iran are protesting laws that require them to wear full hijab while driving by filming themselves laughing as they throw off the “visible symbol of oppression”.

The Independent reported in December on a state crackdown on women failing to wear “proper” Islamic dress while at the wheel, which saw 40,000 vehicles impounded in 10 months.

Since May 2014, Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad has been encouraging women to share pictures of themselves flouting strict rules requiring women to remain covered up in public.

Her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” has since ballooned to near a million followers, and from her exile in New York she told The Independent the use of new laws to impound cars exposed just how big the issue of the hijab remains.

She shared one video of a group of women in a car throwing off their full hair coverings and laughing, and said they were representative of larger numbers for whom it is “dangerous to publish on a bigger platform”.

“The woman who sent this video to us was only an example of a silent majority,” Ms Alinejad said. “They are representative of those who don’t agree with the rules, who dare to risk their lives and reject the car ban in Iran.”

این عکس را عکاس خبرگزاری تسنیم منتشر کرده دخترانی که زیر تابلوی حجاب ممنوع روسری شان را از سر بر می دارند. اینجا ایران ا...

Posted by ‎My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران‎ on Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Ms Alinejad, 39, has been a tireless campaigner for women’s rights in Iran since her teens. She was arrested for criticising MPs at the age of 19, while pregnant, before finding work as an investigative journalist. In 2009, she fled to the UK, then to the US, where she lives with her son and husband.

Her Facebook campaign has been a huge success, but she says the next step is to get women talking about what it means.

“Stealthy freedom does not scare the government of Iran at all,” she said. “But when you talk about your stealthy freedom a lot, that does scare them. They don't want us, the women of Iran, to be heard.”

Referring to the recent nuclear deal agreed with the US and international community, which has seen longstanding economic sanctions raised in Iran, Ms Alinejad said the government of Hassan Rouhani “can negotiate with their own so-called enemy [but] they don’t negotiate with their own women”.

She called on female leaders who visit Iran to refuse to cover their heads “as all Muslims would protest if the West came out with a new law forcing Muslim women to take off their hijab”.

“We have a nuclear deal, now we need a women deal,” she said. “When the international sanctions against Iran are lifted, we invite all the women around the world to stand shoulder to shoulder with the women of Iran and raise our voices so that the domestic sanctions will be lifted as well.”

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