The Hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women in the presence of men they are not closely related to, has become a controversial practice and a lightning rod for debate across the world. It divides opinion both within Muslim countries and across the dozens of secular countries which Muslims call home.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, Shia Islam has been the raison d'être of the current state since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The law that women must wear an approved form of head covering in public is strictly enforced — regardless of the level of religious observance that the woman adheres to at home. The Basij are members of the 'Organization for Mobilization of the Oppressed'. They are a volunteer citizens militia who roam the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities and monitor religious observance. Wherever they are, they do their best to clamp down on illegal activities, ranging from fraternizing between unmarried couples to the ownership of satellite dishes.
Improper dress, specifically insufficient coverage of the head, shoulders and chest of women in public is officially illegal. Any violations can incur arrest and heavy fines. Iran's new president, Hasan Rohani, has said publicly that the women's dress code should be encouraged through education rather than enforced by the police. Despite these moderating claims, secular Iranian women continue to face censure and punishment for insufficiently modest dress.
Hossein Fatemi met 20 women, some of whom wear the Hijab voluntarily, and photographed them through their veils — but behind the veiled lens, the subjects were free to appear how they wished. Thus, "Veiled Truths" offers rare insight into the private spheres of Iranian women, showing the differences between individual ideas of identity and the public uniformity imposed by Iranian society.
— Hossein Fatemi
See all of the winners and finalists here: LensCulture Portrait Awards 2014.