More than 120 women's and LGBT+ rights activists have signed a damning statement ahead of the new "Hijab and Chastity Day" being imposed on Iranians by the government tomorrow. Entitled "No Means No", it laid out the damage done to society by 43 years of enforced veiling in Iran.
Among the signatories are prominent figures including the journalist Asieh Amini, actress Parvaneh Hosseini, and women's rights advocates Ferangis Bayat, Rizvan Moghadam and Mansoura Shojaei. Forced veiling, they wrote, restricted women's opportunities in public life and in the workplace, impacted their health and deepened inequalities, while encouraging "poisonous" thinking around female bodies.
In addition, they said, forced hijab had fueled homosexuality and transphobia in Iran by promoting the idea of a gender binary, dividing society into the monolithic groups of "men" and "women" without considering the full spectrum. "Although the basis of the hijab is misogyny," they wrote, "we know that it aso reinforces rigid gender dichotomies."
They went on: "Naming a day of 'Hijab and Chastity' after 40 or so years of the obvious failure of mandatory hijab, and its enforcement, is just a sign of the Iranian government's empty hands in the face of women's struggle against this imposition.
"Whatever the political future of Iran, we women, the queer community and gender rights activists will cleave a path toward freedom and equality, out of this burdensome and shameful experience. Rights are not something that can be distorted by criminalization, nor something given to us as a gift. We know our rights and we have learned how to get them. So our struggle and resistance continues."
A large number of women are expected to protest on Tuesday by going out into the streets unveiled, with efforts underway online to organise and turn the "Hijab and Chastity Day" on its head.
از فراخوان #نه_به_حجاب_اجباری با جون و دل حمایت میکنیم✌🏿— iran_azad83 (@iran_azad83) July 10, 2022
اینم بدونید کل 85میلیون جمعیت ایران نمیتونه روسری مادر 70ساله منو از رو سرش برداره،ما حامی دموکراسی هستیم و با هر گونه دیکتاتوری مخالفیم✌🏿 pic.twitter.com/icQftgzL1M
The pushback comes after a weeks-long renewed assault on women's civil rights in Iran, with morality patrols stepped up in major cities and business owners arrested for hosting mixed groups. The deputy prosecutor in Mashhad has ordered banks and the subway to cut off services to women not wearing hijab.
Last week many of the country's Friday imams, who are appointed by Ali Khamenei, used part of their Friday sermons to complain about "badly veiled women" and call for further crackdowns.
Seyyed Nasir Hosseini, Friday imam for the city of Yasuj in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, claimed: "Badly dressed women provoke everyone. These outfits are one of the reasons for divorce in society." Those who did not cover their hair, he said, should be made to "pay a heavy price".