Iranian authorities have cracked down on protests that erupted after a 22-year-old woman died in custody after she was arrested by morality police for not wearing a hijab properly. The death of Mahsa Amini, who was beaten after being arrested for wearing her hijab “improperly”, sparked street protests.
There was unrest across the country as women set their scarves on fire in protest against laws forcing women to wear the hijab. Seven people were reported dead and the government was almost total closed Internet.
But elsewhere in the Arab world — including Iraq, where I grew up — the protests have drawn attention, and women Collecting online to Provide solidarity For Iranian women struggling under the country’s strict theocracy.
Through the implementation and extension of the hijab, guardianship over women’s bodies and minds is not limited to Iran. They manifest themselves in various forms and degrees in many countries.
In Iraq and unlike in the case of Iran, forced hijab is unconstitutional. However, ambiguities and contradictions in many parts of the constitution, especially Article 2, which is the main statute of Islam, enabled the situation of compulsory hijab.
Since the 1990s, when Saddam Hussein began his faith campaign in response to economic sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, pressure on women to wear the hijab has become widespread. After the US-led invasion of the country, the situation worsened under the rule of Islamist parties, many of whom have close ties to Iran.
Contrary to US President George W. Bush’s claim in 2004 that the Iraqi people were “now learning the blessings of freedom,” women bear a patriarchal burden exacerbated by Islamism, militarization and tribalism, and the influence of Iran. .
After 2003 I found it difficult to go out without a hijab in Baghdad on a daily basis. I had to wear a headscarf to protect myself everywhere I entered conservative neighborhoods, especially during the years of religious violence.
Flashbacks of pro-hijab posters and banners around my university in central Baghdad always haunt me. The situation has not changed for two decades, with hijab being reportedly imposed on boys and girls in primary and secondary schools.
A new campaign has appeared on social media against the forced wearing of the hijab in public schools in Iraq. Nathir Isa, a prominent activist Women for women The group leading the campaign told me that many conservative or tribal members of the community cherish the hijab and can foresee a backlash.
Similar campaigns have been halted due to threats and online attacks. Women were fascinated, posting on social media with the hashtag #notocompulsoryhijab Reaction tweets They are accused of being anti-Islamic and anti-social.
Similar accusations have been made against Iranian women who defy the regime by removing or burning their headscarves. Iraqi Shia cleric, Ayad Jamal al-Din Whipped Against the protests on his Twitter account, he labeled Iranian women protesting as “anti-hijab whores” seeking to destroy Islam and culture.
Cyber feminists and reactionary men
In my digital ethnographic work on cyberfeminism in Iraq and other countries, I have encountered many similar reactions to women who question the hijab or decide to remove it. Women who use their social media accounts to reject the hijab often face sexual assaults and threats that attempt to humiliate and silence them.
Those who are open about their decision to take off the hijab are met with severe backlash. The hijab is associated with women’s dignity and chastity, so removing it is considered defiant.
Women’s struggle with the forced hijab and the backlash against it challenges the prevailing cultural narrative that wearing the hijab is a free choice. While most women freely decide whether to wear it or not, others feel obligated to wear it.
Academics therefore need to reexamine the discourse surrounding the hijab and the conditions under which it continues to be compulsory. In doing so, it is important to move away from the false dichotomies of culture vs. religion or local vs. Western that obscure rather than illuminate the root causes of forced hijab.
In her academic research on gender-based violence in the Middle East, feminist academic Nadje Al-Ali emphasizes the need to break away from these binaries and recognize the many complex power dynamics both locally and internationally.
The fact that women are forced to wear the hijab in conservative societies should be central to any discussion of women’s broader struggle for freedom and social justice.
Despite the security crackdown, Iranian women’s outrage over compulsory hijab wearing is part of a broader women’s struggle against authoritarian conservative regimes and societies that deny them agency. The mass outrage in Iran and Iraq invites us to challenge the perpetuation of the compulsory hijab and those who impose it on women or the conditions that enable it.
An Iraqi women’s activist told me: “For many of us, the hijab is like a prison door and we are invisible prisoners.” Without subscribing to the narrative that Muslim women need saving by the international community, it is important that international media and activists highlight their struggle.