Iranian women arrested and imprisoned for removing hijab, posting pictures of dancing

July 17, 2018 • 11:00 am

Can we hope that Iran, now in turmoil over many things, will try to stabilize itself by allowing its women simple human decency? In the last few weeks, two women have been arrested for removing their headscarves (20 years in jail!) or for posting pictures on social media of themselves dancing.  These are religious offenses, and are deemed such because they inspire the lust of men. (Women, of course bear full responsibility for whatever men do when engorged with uncontrollable lust.)

The first detainee, Shaparak Shajarizadeh (click on screenshot below) was apparently sentenced to two decades in stir for removing the hijab in protest of its compulsory wearing, and for “waving a white flag of peace in the street.” (White Wednesdays, in which women wear clothing of that color, are part of women’s protest against Iranian oppression.) Note that the story was not verified by Iranian authorities.


And here’s a story from the Guardian (click on screenshot, also see story in the July 9 New York Times) about a woman being arrested for posting an Instagram video (see below) of herself dancing.

This innocuous video was deemed dangerous enough to warrant the arrest of Maedeh Hojabri:

From the story about Hojabri New York Times, which described on July 9 the kind of public morality shaming that women like Hojabri are subjected to.

Like many teenage girls, Maedeh Hojabri liked to dance in her bedroom, record it and post clips to Instagram.

But Ms. Hojabri lives in Iran, where women are not allowed to dance, at least not in public. The 19-year-old was quietly arrested in May and her page was taken down, leaving her 600,000 followers wondering where she had gone.

The answer came last Tuesday on state television, when some of her fans recognized a blurred image of Ms. Hojabri on a show called “Wrong Path.”There she sobbingly admitted that dancing is a crime and that her family had been unaware she had videos of herself dancing in her bedroom to Western songs like “Bonbon,” by Era Istrefi.

Whatever the authorities’ intent, the public shaming of Ms. Hojabri and the arrest of others who have not been identified have created a backlash in a society already seething over a bad economy, corruption and a lack of personal freedoms.]

But there are signs that not just Iranian women are supporting the freedom to dress without veiling and to dance in public, but Iranians in general. As the Times notes,

Last week the judiciary warned that Instagram, which has 24 million users in Iran, might be closed because of its “unwanted content.” Ms. Hojabri, and other internet celebrities like her are called “antlers” by hard-liners for the way they stand out on Instagram.

But the public seems squarely on the side of Ms. Hojabri. “Really what is the result of broadcasting such confessions?” one Twitter user, Mohsen Bayatzanjani, wrote, using special software to gain access to Twitter, which is also banned in Iran. “What kind of audience would be satisfied? For whom would it serve as a lesson, seriously?”

Western feminists shy away from these kinds of violations, so that hijabis are often viewed as heroes though many of them are unwilling victims of Islamic morality. This represents the victory of skin pigmentation (Muslims are perceived as “oppressed brown people”, though many are lighter than I am and they’re hardly oppressed in places like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia) over feminism. The hierarchy of oppression is clear—skin color > sex—but why Muslim women in their own countries are seen as immune to oppression, or ignored by Western feminists, defies rational analysis. You won’t find a post like this one on most of the feminist websites.

In the meantime, however, Iranian women themselves know what’s going on, and are dancing in public in support of Hojabri. I am saddened but also heartened by this video of Iranian women dancing. If you want a running account of oppression, including both men and women, just go to #Iran.

A similar sentiment from the British gay activist Peter Tatchell:

14 thoughts on “Iranian women arrested and imprisoned for removing hijab, posting pictures of dancing

  1. It’s so surreal to think that this happens in other parts of the world. I’m taken aback every time I read about events like this. But what can be done? Iran’s theocratic leaders have a firm grip on power, and most of the public seems unwilling and/or unable to challenge them.

    1. What is needed is nothing less than a revolution to counter the theocratic one in 1979. However, theocracies seem hard to remove or topple, perhaps because the adherents believe their eternal fate is at stake.
      I just hope some people in the West keep these incidents in mind, if only to achieve a balanced view, particularly when they celebrate the first hijabi fashion model, the first hijabi Olympian, etc., as if this Medieval headscarf doesn’t have a very disturbing history. Women everywhere should wear what they want, but we cannot forget what this bit of clothing represents.

  2. Well, if the male religious nuts are afraid that a bit exposed ankle or lock of hair might cause them to sin then that video of the young woman dancing must be the most terrifying thing they’ve ever seen. She represents all the terror inspired by the power that women have over them. The power that has inspired them to subjugate women in order to protect themselves from having to be responsible for their own morality.

  3. Wow. Twenty years in jail. For taking off a headscarf. Unbelievable. Well, with all the women protesting (and more power to them), Iran is going to have to start building new prisons. And young men will have to go there to look for prospective wives. Absurdity seems normal when you’re immersed in it.

  4. This is one liberal feminist who ALWAYS supports these women. I suspect I’m actually in the majority, although those who get the attention for their outrageous statements tend to get the attention.

    It makes me angry when a woman is celebrated in a Western country for covering up. A few ignorant people might abuse her or rip off her headscarf, but she will get plenty of support and the law is on her side.

    Even in a Western country, it’s actually far braver to NOT cover up, if that is what the woman wants to do. That’s because of the attitude of those in their own community who think women should cover themselves. The women who don’t cover themselves put themselves at risk of shunning, abuse, violence, and even death. Further, they can be in a position where they cannot access outside support, or are too scared or cowed to do so.

    As for Iran, things are a-changing. There are more and more people who believe women should be able to choose whether or not they wear the hijab. The hardliners are trying to maintain control by coming down extra hard, but that tactic is backfiring. There are too many prepared to stand up to them despite the risk.

    Also, people are suffering financially, and recent exposure of how much government money is going to support clerics in a luxury lifestyle has made them angry.

    1. We’ve become too overly deferential in the West to notions of cultural identity, and people taking excessive pride in what, after all, is often largely just a matter of chance i.e. where you’re born, and the culture you’re brought up in.

      Many Muslim women in Australia, for instance, appear only too eager to wear the headscarf as a way of singling themselves out as ‘uniquely different’ or ‘special’, to the largely secular culture around them. They can justify it as their ‘choice’, without giving too much thought to their ‘sisters’ in places like Iran who don’t have the luxury of that choice.

      1. Do you eat food? Or Do you starve yourself because there are orphans in Africa who are starving. Muslim woman shouldn’t have to do anything they don’t want to. Like being forced to wear clothing they don’t want to or being shamed for their pride in clothing that they want to wear.

  5. Right now, I’m really hating humanity. How much horror must be inflicted on one another to prove a religious point? Or a political point for that matter. Pinker has the data that humanity is getting better. What I fear is that progress is long and hard. Reversing progress is quick and easy.

  6. Such theocratic outrages drive me to powerless anger and then apathy. I guess it is the same with others, even the comments to this post are few. Thank you, Prof. Coyne, for writing it!

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