Thousands of Iranian women are taking off their veils and publishing pictures of themselves online, igniting a debate about the freedom to wear or not wear the hijab.
A Facebook page set up by London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad 10 days ago has attracted more than 130,000 likes, with women across Iran sending unveiled pictures taken in parks, at the seaside and in the streets.
"My stealthy freedom while driving in the streets of Tehran," wrote Maryam alongside an image showing her behind the wheel. "I like to feel the wind blowing on my face."
Another post showed a mother with her daughter. "The beautiful seaside in Kish [Island]," the younger woman wrote. "We strolled on the rocks and experienced the cool breeze flowing through our hair. Is this a big request?" A young woman from the city of Fuman, in the northern province of Gilan, sent a picture of her in the woods. "I took this picture stealthily in the spring," she wrote. "It makes me feel happy."
Alinejad told the Guardian she had been bombarded with messages and pictures since launching Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women. "I've hardly slept in the past three days because of the number of pictures and messages I've received."
Alinejad said she did her best to verify that the pictures were sent from genuine accounts and asked people for permission before publishing them, but did not reveal their full names.
"I have no intention whatsoever to encourage people to defy the forced hijab or stand up against it," she said. "I just want to give voice to thousands and thousands of Iranian women who think they have no platform to have their say."
Alinejad said she was not opposed to the hijab - her mother is veiled - but she believed people should have the freedom to choose.
Alinejad, who is from Ghomikola, a small northern Iranian village, said the hijab was part of her daily life until she left Iran in 2009. "For 30 years I wore hijab in front of my dad. It took time for me to be able to come out and tell people I prefer to have no hijab, that I want to be myself," she said.
In the 40C heat of an Iranian summer, many women in the country push the boundaries, wearing loose hijab or sporting clothing and haircuts the authorities deem "un-Islamic". At the same time, the religious police are often deployed on the streets, cracking down on those with "bad hijab". Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, has spoken out against the crackdown, but his government has little control over these forces.
Original headline: Iranian women remove hijabs on Facebook
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