Iranian Singer Ermia's Show Biz Veil

Iranian music talent show participants (season three). Photo by Manoto TV, from Googoosh Music Academy's official Facebook page

Iranians flooded social media with comments at the end of March, when Ermia, a female amateur singer who lives in Germany and wears a veil (hijab) won a talent show on the London-based Persian language television station, Manoto. Some found it strange for her to wear the veil on the show voluntarily, while others supported her decision.

The very popular Googoosh Music Academy (GMA) programme that debuted three years ago on Manoto TV is an adaptation of the American hit show, American Idol.

Iranians who have lived with compulsory hijab-wearing for women in their country for the past 34 years under the Islamic Republic had radically different reactions to Ermia's win:

@Pooyamax tweets jokingly, criticising Ermia's hijab:

Ermia was born in Khomein and her real surname is Khomeini, in fact she is Imam Khomeini reincarnated as Ermia.

In her blog, Fatemeh, sees the controversy as natural within the Iranian post-revolutionary context:

How come when singers in other countries, like Egypt, sing with their hijab on, [people let go of it] but an Iranian girl participating in a talent show while covering her hair causes all this fury and protest? […] one cannot expect this society to react as easily and comfortably, [ours is a society] under constant persecution of a state that interferes in how the citizens treat their bodies or choose to wear. […] all the violent treatment of women and omission of secular females first from governmental offices and then from the society, the ill-treatment of girls by veiled interrogators and forcing them under the veil…. all this fear and grudge is now channeled against the young girl of Googoosh Music Academy who has a good voice and has chosen hijab. This prejudice and resentment is an offspring of suppression and oppression and has not come about out of the blue. Before any criticism or intellectual humiliation of people, one must try to understand their panic and discover the root of their fears.

Another Iranian blogger, a self-declared “Atheist who voted for Ermia” looks at the Ermia phenomenon from another perspective:

I personally don't disagree with hijab [in principle,] what I have a problem with is the suffix of “compulsory”. Yet, I did not see any effort on the side of this lady [Ermia] to advertise that. In my opinion protesting hijab or veil, is like protesting wearing orange socks! My question is why we degrade ourselves to disagreeing with a mere piece of clothing. I cannot convince myself to hate someone for their hijab. Perhaps this is because there have been people I hold dear who had chosen this kind of appearance, but, despite my detest of black veil as an attire for women, I have tried not judge people based on their garments.

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