Ira­nian women join dress-code protest

Star Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By SHASHANK BEN­GALI and RAMIN MOSTAGHIM Los An­ge­les Times

TEHRAN, IRAN – An Ira­nian woman who re­moved her head­scarf in public to protest the theoc­racy’s Is­lamic dress code ap­par­ently has sparked a bold trend in Tehran, the cap­i­tal.

Sev­eral im­ages ap­peared on so­cial me­dia Mon­day pur­port­ing to show women stand­ing atop benches and tele­phone util­ity boxes and wav­ing hi­jabs just like the iconic demon­stra­tor who was ar­rested last month.

At least one of the demon­stra­tors and a per­son pho­tograph­ing her were ar­rested, wit­nesses said.

A bur­geon­ing move­ment is chal­leng­ing the com­pul­sory hjiab law, which re­quires women to cover their hair in public. It is part of a raft of so­cial codes in­sti­tuted af­ter the 1979 Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion that re­form-minded Ira­nian women say are out­moded and in­fringe on free­dom of choice.

Crit­ics of the law had been wear­ing white cloth­ing on Wed­nes­days for months be­fore a dark-haired, sneaker-wear­ing woman stood in Tehran’s bustling Enghe­lab Square in late De­cem­ber and waved her white hi­jab on the end of a stick.

She was ar­rested, and she be­came one of the icons of the anti-gov­ern­ment protests that would sweep Iran a few days later. A so­cial me­dia cam­paign dubbed #WhereIsShe sprang up to de­mand in­for­ma­tion about her fate.

But her iden­tity was not pub­licly known un­til days ago, when hu­man rights lawyer Nas­rin So­toudeh said she had been told by a court that han­dles al­leged cul­tural of­fenses that the woman was re­leased from cus­tody.

So­toudeh iden­ti­fied the woman as Vida Mo­va­hedi, a 31-year-old mother of a 20-month-old child. It was not clear whether Mo­va­hedi had been charged with a crime. Iran’s state-con­trolled news me­dia have not cov­ered the story.

On Mon­day, with parts of Tehran still cov­ered in the rem­nants of a week­end snow­fall, sev­eral women were pho­tographed mim­ick­ing her protest.

One stood in the same spot as Mo­va­hedi, wear­ing a green rib­bon that likely iden­ti­fied her as a sup­porter of the op­po­si­tion Green Move­ment, whose lead­ers are un­der house ar­rest.

A sec­ond was spot­ted in bustling Fer­dowsi Square north of the Bri­tish Em­bassy, stand­ing on a tele­phone box.

Yet another stood in Vali Asr, a busy com­mer­cial area in cen­tral Iran, dan­gling a black scarf on a fish­ing rod like a piece of bait.

“The mes­sage of these cit­i­zens is clear,” So­toudeh said. “We, the women and girls, are fed up with this com­pul­sory hi­jab. We want to man­age our cloth­ing and what to wear.”

EBRAHIM NOROOZI • AP

The hi­jab law was in­sti­tuted af­ter the Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion.

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