Tehran police’s plan to discourage veil protesters backfires

Police weld a pointy top to Iranian women's symbolic protest spot
Police weld a pointy top to Iranian women's symbolic protest spot

In the last few months, Iranian women have begun to publicly take a stand against the law that forces them to wear a veil in public. Hundreds have protested in the same way: they climb atop a telephone junction box in the street, and they wave their scarf at the end of a stick. To try to stop this, Tehran police put a big spike on one of these boxes… but it didn’t work out quite as they had hoped.

The movement started with a young woman named Vida Movahedi, who was the first person to wave her scarf from the end of a stick on December 27. She did this standing atop a telephone junction box on Tehran’s Enghelab street – meaning Revolution Street. Since then, hundreds of women, and even a few men, have copied her. In Tehran, many women chose to do this atop same box as Movahedi, earning them the nickname “Revolution girls”.

Police put a big spike on one of the boxes that became a symbolic spot to protest.


READ MORE ON THE OBSERVERS: Women boldly protest hijab law in Iran’s streets

A police officer climbed a tree next to the box and pushed Maryam Shariatmadari off.

On February 22, Tehran police officers installed a big spike on top of this box in order to stop more women from climbing onto it.

A photo of this started circulating on social media, and young Iranians quickly started mocking the police. Only a few hours later, a woman waved her veil atop another box, just a few dozen metres away from the one Movahedi used.

Videos published on social media show a police officer trying to convince the woman to climb down. She refused, and he climbed a tree next to the box and pushed her off. Passersby tried to help the young woman, but were unable to stop the police from taking her away.

Several dozen people then gathered in front of the police station where the woman was being held to protest against her detention. Several of them demanded that the police officer who pushed her be punished. Friends of the woman said her name is Maryam Shariatmadari.

After this episode, on February 24 Iranian police made a gable for this city telephone box as well, and the clash over the pointed tops did not end there. During the night of February 24, some Iranians made a kind of step to place over both of the pointed tops in Enghelab Street, in order that women could stand on them again - rendering the phone boxes “protestable” again.

Last December, Tehran police made a surprise announcement: they would no longer arrest women for failing to wear their veils. But this new policy doesn’t seem to apply to those who take off their veils to protest against the law, since police arrested 29 women who did this on February 1.