In 2018, dozens of courageous Iranian women protested the Islamic Republic’s repressive mandatory hijab laws by removing their headscarves in public and by placing them on sticks. The defiant protesters, who became known as the "Girls of Revolution Street," were accused of "encouraging corruption" and received severe punishment for that.
Two Iranian men, Reza Khandan, the husband of human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh and their friend Farhad Meysami, also a human rights activist, decided to support the “Girls of Revolution Street” by hand-pressing buttons that said, “I oppose the mandatory hijab” in Persian. But Intelligence Ministry agents raided their houses and confiscated the buttons shortly after the two men started distributing them.
Five years later, the banished buttons are re-appearing thanks to Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross, who directed and produced the 2021 documentary “NASRIN,” an immersive portrait of Sotoudeh.
Kaufman and Ross have launched the #FreedomButton campaign to show solidarity for women’s rights in Iran, where the authorities are cracking down hard on a months-long protest movement demanding fundamental economic, social and political changes.
Kaufman and Ross are calling on people around the world to stand up to Iran’s oppressive regime and its brutal clampdowns on women by wearing in public an exact copy of the 2018 button and by displaying it on social media. This image of the button can be printed and cut out. The public can request a button and get more information at https://bit.ly/freedombutton.
“This campaign honors the spirit of Reza and Farhad and Nasrin – and so many others – who make buttons or signs or t-shirts and go to the streets and courtrooms to peacefully demand their basic rights. Their ideals and resilience are incredibly inspiring,” Kaufman said.
The campaign is backed by organizations and individuals including Amnesty International, Artists for Human Rights, The Boroumand Foundation, The Feminist Majority Foundation, Ms. Magazine, Parliamentarians for Global Action, PEN America, Right Livelihood, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman.
“I’m wearing this button because I oppose the mandatory hijab. I believe a woman should be able to choose whether she wants to wear a hijab, or not wear a hijab. It’s up to her. And I support women’s right to choose in all things within Iran and around the world,” said Tehran-born comedian and actor Maz Jobrani.
All women in Iran must conceal their hair with a headscarf and wear loose fitting trousers under their coats while in public.
But a growing number of women have appeared in public without a hijab since the September 2022 death of a young woman who was detained by morality police for allegedly wearing hijab improperly sparked the ongoing nationwide protests against the Islamic Republic.
The authorities have repeatedly warned women to respect the Islamic Republic’s dress codes and threatened to punish violators. Some defiant women were arrested or summoned by the authorities, while many businesses were shut down due to the failure of owners or managers to observe hijab rules.
More than 520 people were killed and over 20,000 were unlawfully detained in the state crackdown on protests, according to activists. After biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters.
Meysami was arrested in July 2018 and unjustly jailed until February 2023, when he was released from prison after a long hunger strike. Khandan served three months in prison before being freed on bail, while Sotoudeh spent more than three years in prison. She is now on medical leave.