The hashtag that is defying women’s dress code in Iran

Tom Lawson

Online campaign #WhiteWednesdays, which protests the obligatory wearing of headscarves for women in Iran, is gaining momentum

For women in Iran, not wearing a headscarf – or hijab – in public can lead to a police caution, a fine or even arrest. But an online campaign is challenging the law by encouraging women to wear white hijabs once a week in protest and share the results on social media with the hashtag #WhiteWednesdays.

Set up in May by activist and journalist Masih Alinejad, women – and some men – from across Iran and around the world have shared images and videos of themselves in support. Alinejad also invites women who willingly wear the hijab to join, emphasising that the campaign is not against hijabs, but being forced to wear them by law.

My dream is to walk without compulsory hijab in my own city with no fear

Alinejad, who now lives in New York, has shared on Twitter many examples of images sent to her from Iran, including: “Me and my brother are joining #WhiteWednesdays campaign to highlight the concept of freedom of choice,” and “My dream is to walk without compulsory hijab in my own city with no fear.”

#WhiteWednesdays is part of Alinejad’s wider online campaign My Stealthy Freedom, which sees Iranian women posting images of themselves defying the law by wearing no headscarf. Alinejad wanted to expand the campaign’s reach and to enable participating women to recognise each other in the street. She chose white as “the colour of peace”.

Although no official records exist on the numbers of violators of the hijab law which came into force after the 1979 Islamic revolution, campaign group Justice for Iran estimate that between 2004 and 2014, nearly half a million women were cautioned and more than 30,000 arrested across the country.

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