My Stealthy Freedom - Iran
This photography project reflects on forced hijab in Iran, a literal and metaphorical boundary imposed upon Iranian women. Many Iranian women hate compulsory hijab, they see it as a symbol of oppression, forced upon them not by choice or personal beliefs but by an oppressive regime. For them it has become to represent the inequality and discrimination Iranian women face because of their gender.
Every day, Iranians, especially the women, defy the regime courageously by small acts of defiance. By wearing the hijab too low, the colors too bright, the pants too tight or the manteaux too short. Together these constant acts of bravery are affecting change, slowly but visibly evolving. The regime responds to this with regular crack-downs - when women are arrested and harassed - and by creating new laws, like the ban for women to ride a bicycle.
With the windows of my Tehran apartment covered with tinfoil to ensure that the flash would not be visible from outside, we were safe to create and let creativity flow. The women threw their brightly colored headscarf in the air and as it inescapably floated back to them, I captured their act of defiance.
In recent years, it's especially women who are pushing for change in Iran. Women in Iran are highly educated. They are involved in the workforce and they are continually suppressed. Also during the widespread Iranian protests in the beginning of 2018, women were at the center of the resistance. The young Iranian woman, Vida Movahed, standing atop a container and shedding her hijab while simultaneously waving it as a flag, has become the symbol of the protests.
Since her arrest, more women are taking a stand with their headscarves on a wooden stick, emulating her initial protest. Also religious women and men are joining to take a stand against forced hijab, making it all the more clear that this fight is about freedom and not about religion.
Journalist Masih Alinejad, founder of the My Stealthy Freedom movement has contributed a great sense of empowerment to Iranian women. Her campaign - for which women send their defiant photos of themselves without hijab which she then posts on Facebook - has inspired many and has exposed the magnitude of shared experience.
Although social media are forbidden in Iran, women in Tehran are using social media via VPN to help their battle. When they get arrested for breaking hijab rules, they film each other from a safe distance to document the brutality in the hopes of creating more awareness and to empower other Iranian women.
NB: I find hijab a very delicate and sensitive topic. I applaud the right for any woman to wear as she chooses. And that is what this project is about, the freedom to choose. The freedom to be in charge of one’s own life. It’s about women coming together and letting their voices be heard. About women fighting for equal rights under a repressive regime. The protest against forced hijab stands symbol for that bigger fight.