Hijab and freedom

Hijab and freedom

Last weekend, I watched the last episode of “Tehran,” produced by Apple TV. It is an excellent spy series with action, tension and many twists and turns that, despite its title, was not shot in Tehran, but in Athens: in Kolonaki, Kypseli and on Kifissias and Akadimias avenues, we watch Iranian Security officers chasing Israeli Mossad agents, we see young women rebel by throwing off their headscarfs in hidden spaces, but trembling at the sight of the Revolutionary Guards.

The guardians of Iran’s theocratic regime and guarantors of stability and order are powerful and highly influential in Iranian society. The series is quite convincing about the everyday life of Iranian women, who are told they must not provoke with their dress and behavior and are obliged to wear the hijab at work, on outings, in the gym, on the street, everywhere – and they have to wear it properly, hiding their hair.

It is something that 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an ethnic Kurd from western Iran, didn’t do diligently. She had not carefully covered her hair. She was arrested by morality police for wearing an inappropriate hijab and died in detention. Her father has claimed that he was not allowed to take her body for an autopsy. Authorities have said they will conduct an in-depth investigation into the cause of death, but we can only imagine how exactly that investigation will go and how deep it will be.

The aftermath of Amini’s death is now unfolding in the major cities of Iran. Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets, men and women without headscarves and hijabs, demanding more rights, greater freedoms.

It’s been a decade since then, but most of us remember the waves of protest in Europe when France banned women from walking the streets in burqas, hijabs or niqabs, and also banned the burkini – a full-body swimsuit that leaves only the face exposed. Many European women, including in Greece, passionately supported the right to the headscarf, arguing that no one can dictate to French Muslim women what to wear and what not to wear.

One of the slogans was “freedom is in hijab.” Yes, if you live in Europe, you might as well shout it at a free-speech rally, where of course we place all our rights and freedoms in the same blender. If you’re a 22-year-old woman in Iran, you obviously have the opposite opinion. And you might even pay for it with your life.

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