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World Hijab Day, can an instrument of repression become a symbol of pride? ItalianPostNews

World Hijab Day, can an instrument of repression become a symbol of pride? Italian Post, 1 February 2024

From Mahsa Amini to Armita Geravand: when taking it away costs your life

Choice is at the heart of the hijab debate. In Iran, if the obligation did not apply, Mahsa Amini and Armita Geravand would be alive. And despite the women’s revolution that invaded the streets, in September the Tehran parliament tightened sanctions against those who do not wear it, with a bill that seeks to punish them with up to 10 years in prison. On the occasion of the first anniversary of Amini’s death, journalist Masih Alinejad spoke to Sky TG24 about the veil as the symbol of “gender apartheid”, underlining that “it is not a piece of fabric, but the pillar of a religious dictatorship” . The Iranian activist and television presenter is of the same opinion Maryam Namazie, against World Hijab Day. “Where it is mandatory, we discover its true purpose: to control women’s bodies and sexuality.” Recently, an 11-year-old girl who fell in class was beaten by a school official,” she says. Under the current law, girls between the ages of 9 and 15 who remove their headscarves risk a fine and may be banned from leaving the country for up to two years. “For adults, the punishment can include prison or lead to death, as in Mahsa’s case.”

Maryam Namazie: “No pride, hijab controls our bodies”

Namazie, born in Tehran and fled the country with her family in 1980 after the Iranian Revolution, recalls that this year’s theme is “the veil is strength”, “but it doesn’t take strength to do what we are told. The veil is a religious imposition, and often involves force and coercion. How can it be a woman’s ‘choice’, when in most cases it is instead that of her husband, father, brother, mullahs, states and religious organizations? There is no choice in coercion.” For the activist, the slogan of World Hijab Day 2024 is just “a play on words to make it attractive and hide its role in controlling women”. One of the aims of the Day is to combat religious intolerance, “but it cannot be counteracted by normalizing misogyny”, comments Namazie. And even less so, promoting the concept of “pride”: “Whoever is proud to wear this garment is actually following the orders of religious fundamentalism.”

“The culture of modesty, an extension of rape culture”

The culture of modesty promoted by the veil is “fundamentally an extension of rape culture”, underlines Namazie, who has been criticizing the meaning behind the anniversary for years. “If a woman doesn’t cover up, then men can’t be blamed for doing what they want. She wanted it, is the mantra of this vision.” A concept, that of choice as told by Tasmin Ali, which for the activist is a symptom of a privilege that cannot afford to distort the meaning of that piece of fabric. “Activists on this day can promote it all they want, especially when living safely in secular societies, but the reality of the hijab is one of terror, trauma and violence on the one hand, and women’s resistance on the other. The ‘Women, Life and Freedom’ revolution in Iran has touched women around the world for this very reason.”

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