Massih Alinejad. All photos were published on her Facebook page "Stealthy Freedoms."
Over the past week, women in Iran have been posting photos of themselves without their hijabs on a Facebook page called “Stealthy Freedoms”, which has already garnered nearly 130,000 likes. We asked the woman who launched the page about the meaning behind this defiant gesture.
Iranian women have been forced to wear hijabs in public ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution. If they are caught without one by the morality police, they face arrest, fines, and even prison time. However, some women, especially in big cities like Tehran, push the strict rules to the limit by taking their hijabs off while driving or wearing it very far back on their heads.
Now, women who feel constrained by the country’s dress code are sending their hijab-less photos to the administrator of “Stealthy Freedoms”. Some hide behind sunglasses or turn their heads away from the camera; though some do show their faces. They do not share their names, however.
"This photo was taken in autumn in Sorkhehesar Park (Tehran). My mind was busy with freedom, but my body all trembled with fear; I trembled as the autumn leaves in the wind! Yes, my moments of stealthy freedom have always been full of fear."
“Many of these women are actually religious”
Iranian journalist Massih Alinejad, who has been living in London since 2008, is the administrator of the “Stealthy Freedoms” Facebook page.
A little while back, I posted a photo of myself driving in Iran without a hijab to my Facebook page. I asked this question: Are there other women like me who have experienced this ‘stealthy freedom’? And would you post such photos online or not? The result was that many women started sending me their own photos. Each time, I made sure that the sender understood that this page was without a doubt being watched by the authorities, and they made the final decision as to whether I should post the photo.I was not surprised by this outpouring, since as an Iranian, I know that many women do not believe in wearing the hijab and have definitely had such stealthy moments. Because it’s not allowed, Iranian women love nothing more than the feeling of the wind blowing in their hair!"I want my hair to be caressed by the kind hands of the wind. It might be the smallest kind of freedom one could ever wish for, but I have been robbed of it."I do not intend to insult women who wear hijabs. In my own family, women believe in wearing the hijab. But I wanted to show the world that there are other women who don’t, and therefore show a true reflection of Iranian society. Unfortunately, the pro-hijab women are the only ones represented in the Iranian media. What’s interesting is that many of the women sending me photos are actually religious – they invoke God or say they consider themselves Muslim but don’t believe in the hijab."I try to experience this stealth freedom each and every day. Sometimes it comes with peace..sometimes fear! These little stealth freedoms might seem so trivial, but they are vital to your soul."“When women show their true faces, that’s a big threat to the Islamic republic”I think the page gives other women courage to speak out. Due to the Islamic Republic’s propaganda, some women might think they are alone, but find out that they’re not through this page. Many ask each other, why do we need to wear hijabs, when in countries Syria and Lebanon, which are close allies of Iran, women can choose to wear it or not?
"This is my husband and me and a little stealthy thing we did ... We did this in the presence of some [police] officers, who actually had kind hearts and walked past us with a smile. We hope for the day when the authorities offer peace and security to people rather than chastising them for what they wear."Some people might say that clothing is not the most important problem facing women. [Editor’s Note: In Iran, women lack a number of rights. For example, they need the permission of a husband or male guardian in order to travel abroad, and cannot get divorced if their husband doesn’t agree to it.] This is true, and yet it is a huge issue for Iran’s hardliners. They spend huge amounts of money on morality patrols and on pro-hijab propaganda published in the right-wing media. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei claims that Iran is the Umm al-Qura [the heart of the Muslim world], and therefore that it is a model nation. So when women show their true faces, that’s a big threat the Islamic republic.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Ershad Alijani (@ErshadAlijani).
"I took this single photo in the yard of Golestan Palace (Tehran) quietly, stealthily, with difficulty, and away from the eyes of the guards ... I really regrettednot being able to take beautiful photos with all those pretty colorful walls."
"The Third World is where girls dream of feeling of the blowing wind through their hair."
"Caspian Sea Coast, Gulshan Beach ... with my family ... Where we go every summer … And I certainly see no point in being covered."
"My scarf for Mr. Snowman, Mr. Snowman’s freedom for me! Yeah, now we’re talking! Even for a few minutes... Wishing for the day we can finally get rid of all the narrow-mindedness and the meaningless limitations, and attain equal rights."
"No words to convey how this freedom feels. Just a smile"