Death of Mahsa Amini: How Governments are Denying Women’s Right to Choice?
Millions of Muslim women proudly wear Hijaab as a symbol of their religion. What makes them different from those protesting against obligatory hijab in Iran is the women’s right to choose.
But when you widen your horizon, you’ll realize that the dilemma of women’s right to choose is apparent across borders. Be it Iran, India, France, or the US, women are constantly fighting for control of their bodies.
The History of Pro- & Anti-Hijab Protests in Iran
Looking at Iran today, it can be hard to picture that only four decades ago, Iranian women were protesting for the right to wear hijabs. The pro-hijab movement sparked when Iran’s Reza Shah Pahlavi government outlawed any type of veil or head scarfs in an attempt to westernize the country.
At times, the government even forced a complete ban on hijabs, with police scrapping off women’s hijabs in public. During this period of Iranian history, the hijab becomes the symbol of freedom, revolution, and democracy.
The pro-hijab uprising brought down Shah’s government and put Ruhollah Khomeini in office. The Khomeini government, however, was far from ideal. By 1983, the new administration mandated the hijab for Iranian women.
Women were now forced to wear headscarves to an extent where they were punished with prison and even lashes for not abiding by the dress code. The worst phase started after 2005 when Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad introduced the Morality Police; a police department made up of both men and women to keep an eye on women’s clothing in public.
All this brings us to 13 September 2022, when Mahsa Amini, a 22-years old Iranian Kurdish woman, was arrested for violating the hijab code. In police custody, she was subjected to brutal violence that ended up taking her life three days later, on 16 September.
And it was her horrific death that sparked Iran’s historic anti-hijab protest we are witnessing today.
Women’s Right: The Death of Mahsa Amini & the Dirty Politics
The death of Mahsa Amini has sparked unprecedented protests in Iran. Despite a visible crackdown by the Iranian security forces, which includes mass arrests and internet interruption; women are taking the movement to the streets at a scale never seen before.
However, let’s put protests aside for this article. Because what’s happening in Iran right now is much more than just women fighting for their right to choose.
There has been no shortage of individuals, groups, and foreign entities weaponizing these protests to push their political and geopolitical goals.
Many gulf countries, for example, are using these protests to push back the nuclear deal. Backing on the demonstrations, the Western governments, including the US and EU, are considering further sanctions on Iran — even though the economic sanctions have already caused more than enough problems for Iranian women and their families.
And above all are Islamophobes who are using the protest to criticize hijabs, Muslims, and Islam in general. But how is any of this going to help the protesting women in Iran?
Everybody is currently striving to further their agendas, while Iranian women are risking their lives on the street.
Iran and the US: Not So Different Countries for Women’s Rights
Although the US and the Iranian government have polar ideologies, the US is in no state to police Iran morally regarding women’s rights.
It is the US, where a 10-year-old victim of rape from Ohio is not allowed to go through an abortion because of the new state law. Women in the US are protesting against the blanket ban on abortion, with no hope for reforms.
On the other hand, the anti-hijab protest in Iran has reignited the hijab debate in India. Why is it so difficult for the Karnatak government to respect the choice of Muslim women students to wear a hijab to college? It’s absurd that these students have to fight their own government for their choice to be respected.
But be it Iran, Pakistan, India, or the USA, the debate remains the same: do women have the right to choose? Or is the word choice totally non-existential for women?
The Courageous Women of Iran
Women protesting in Iran are not again the hijab but against the imposition of the hijab. But when religion takes over governments, it creates an illusion of unlimited power. This is the case of Iranian authorities who are practicing absolute power by virtue of morality police.
But is it acceptable to restrain women against their will like literal goons?
The protest that started with the death of Mahsa has now become an international movement for women’s right to choose. And, make no mistake, women are not alone here. Most Iranian male population stands with courageous Iranian women on the frontline against injustice in the name of religion.
Let Women Exercise their Right to Choice
Yes, when it comes to hijab rights in Iran, India, or the US, choosing the right side is not always straightforward. It’s complicated with numerous factors, including individuality, choice, and religion, at play.
We should stand with Iranian women protesting for their freedom, fundamental rights, and liberation. I will continue to speak against governments banning women from wearing hijabs and against regimes that force them to wear them.
Hijab or no hijab: how about we let women everywhere have the right to choose?