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Stealthily but Publicly, Iranian Women Remove Their Veils Online

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Iran, Citizen Media, Digital Activism, Women & Gender
Unveiled at the sea [1]

A photo from the Facebook page My Stealthy Freedom. The caption says: “I experienced this freedom in my country for a few minutes, after 33 years. Persian Gulf. I will still be a woman even if you cover me with scarves and Chadors. What are you going to do with my eyes?! They are full of love and life.”

Forced for decades to wear headscarves or face arrest, thousands of Iranian women are now taking a chance on the internet and sharing photos of themselves unveiled and in public as an act of defiance.

An online campaign called “Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women” has gone viral since Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad launched a Facebook page [2] on May 3.

The page has more than 303,000 followers and features hundreds of pictures of unveiled women — in the school yard, at the beach, on the streets, and in different historic locations of Iran.

Across social media, photos are shared with the hashtags #mystealthyfreedom [3] or #آزادی‌یواشکی [4] in Persian.

Masih Alinejad who now lives in the United Kingdom posted a picture of herself unveiled on Twitter from while she was in Iran. She says she does not oppose the hijab, but explains that, as a woman, when you do not believe it should be mandatory, you will create some “stealthy freedom” for yourself in order not to be destroyed by the burden of coercion.

Cool breeze blowing through my hair [11]

A photo shared on My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page.

One woman shares a photo and a personal experience on the campaign's Facebook page [11]:

We were on Nowruz holidays (The Persian New Year). We had set off for Abadan. I could not bear the heat and removed my headscarf subconsciously. Well, and taking photos is an inseparable part of traveling.

What gave me even more joy than the cool breeze blowing through my hair, was the sound of rhythmic horns blown by the cars passing by (as to encourage her) and the happy excited faces of my companions.

Although the campaign has been welcomed by a huge number of Iranian activists, some have also criticized it. Some believe the mandatory hijab should not be the primary political concern of Iranian women, and yet others have problems with the term “stealthy”.

Jila Baniyaghoub, an Iranian journalist who lives in Iran writes, “When something is stealthy, it cannot be called freedom anymore. If we were supposed to be happy by our stealthy freedom, nobody would pursue the freedom.”

Besides creating a big debate among Iranians in the virtual world, the campaign has also created a buzz in the foreign media with countless new stories about the campaign and oppression of women in Iran.