Summers get hot, which means the most comfortable thing to wear is often less. While many have the freedom to do so, in places like Iran that choice isn’t always available to a certain population: women.
This year in Tehran, in addition to uniformed “morality police,” authorities have deployed 7,000 undercover members of the Gashte Ershad (“Guidance Patrol”). Their mission? To enforce the country’s “decency” laws.
In 2014, 3.6 million women in Iran were warned for not wearing proper hijabs (headscarves), according to police. As NPR reported, when it comes to the Gashte Ershad, “the most common sight is conservative men from the patrol harassing, berating, or arresting women.”
Iranians have been fighting back against such measures in a number of ways. This year, one included an app called “Gershad,” which is sort of like Waze for the morality police. Instead of marking highway patrol, the app allows Android users to mark places where they’ve spotted morality police so others can avoid them.
Even more remarkable, however, is the movement recently launched by Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad. She and the organization My Stealthy Freedom put together a social media campaign to get men to take pictures of themselves wearing the hijab in support of their wives and other women. Its hashtag is simple: #MenInHijab.
The #MenInHijab campaign has been a wild success. My Stealthy Freedom’s Facebook page alone has gotten over one million Likes. But it isn’t just the #MenInHijab images that are remarkable — it’s what Iranian men are posting alongside their photos.
When it comes to being a member of an oppressed population, it’s easy to feel alone. It’s common to feel like not only will things never change, but that no one outside your sphere cares or even notices.
For many, it is that feeling of isolation that is most destructive.
The #MenInHijab campaign is more than just a fashion statement — it’s a social statement. It’s fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, and husbands giving public and meaningful support to the women in their lives. It’s about men backing women in a country that tries to shame them repeatedly and pervasively.
It’s allies standing up and saying, “We are here with you. We see that this is wrong, and we want to help right it.”
As it says on the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page:
“This is our pose of solidarity. Hoping for a day when such manifestations of solidarity will spread all over Iran and women will finally start enjoying the respect and freedom of choice long overdue to them.”
Or as one young woman noted In one of Alinejad’s previous campaigns in Iran, “I dream of the day that I can choose the style and color of my clothing, a tiny share of anyone’s human rights.”
She’s not alone. The #MenInHijab dream of that day, too.