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Iran: To veil or not to veil

During a two-week visit to Iran in November, I witnessed women of all ages walking freely on the streets without the hijab. But, what we're not told, is that they have been doing so for years.

The explosion of protests in Iran that began in September were not about the Islamic Republic’s “hijab law” specifically, but about the abuses and excesses of the so-called morality police – the Gasht-e-Ershad (also known simply as Ershad, or in English, the ‘guidance patrol’) – against regular Iranian women who were considered to be immodestly garbed.

Public disgruntlement was triggered by the widely-publicized death of Mahsa Amini, who was apprehended by the Ershad and died while in their custody.

Although subsequent video footage released by Iranian police authorities showed that Amini had collapsed herself – likely due to her personal health history, as her official autopsy indicates, and not from alleged “beatings” – Iranians argued that the stress of it all may have triggered that collapse.

In the weeks ahead, protests morphed into riots, and people were killed, both civilians and security forces. Whether the two sides shot at each other, or other, external provocateurs were at play, is not the subject of this commentary.

The question is more where these recent events will take Iran, and whether public sentiment on the hijab will be addressed by the country’s governing bodies – and how.


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