There is a saying in English: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…, or in Iran, hell hath no fury like a woman wronged.
The women have tolerated enough, they can no longer be quiet when injustices are a daily occurrence, a storm will blow. This storm is blowing in Iran now, when the women of Iran are protesting. Iran’s morality police took Mahsa Amini (22 years old) for re-education. But, neither she had participated in an anti-establishment protest or written a poem against the government.
So then, what was this re-education for?
Re-education for ‘not wearing hijab properly’! In Iran, if you don’t wear your hijab ‘properly’, or a shade of your make-up is a bit here and there, there is morality police sitting to ensure that the ‘religious practices’ are strictly obeyed, or else one is jailed for re-education. Sigh, what a shame!
Morality police says that Mahsa died of heart attack, but no one is willing to trust the police given its reputation. It is reported that Mahsa was brought to hospital in a coma, her skull was fractured and she suffered brain haemorrhage. Her father accused authorities of a cover up, said, “I wanted to see my daughter, but they wouldn’t let me in.”
If this was a one off or genuinely a case of heart attack, then it was understandable, but violence against women in Iran is commonplace. Yet, it’s different this time, because women are protesting in large numbers. There are national, international furore, the shadow of which has reached America too. Joe Biden said, “Americans stand with the brave women of Iran.” But, about the situation of women in America, we shall discuss it further!
Firstly, let’s understand what happened in Iran and why protests are continuing on and on!
After the 1979 Iran revolution, mandatory hijab law was passed in Iran in 1981, outsiders would follow this rule too. Now, over 40 years later of this law being in effect, there are widespread protests in Iran against the mandatory hijab law and the anger is especially directed at the morality police (guidance petrol).
When religion takes over minds, it gives an illusion of unlimited power. This was the case of Iranian authorities who practiced unlimited power, by virtue of morality police. It’s much like an Orwellian story. The morality police can detain anyone at any time in the name of religion, from which getting released isn’t easy.
Is this reflective of the 21st century? Is this justified in a civilized world? This is why the women in Iran are protesting against the mandatory hijab law. What can this lead to – time will tell! To this, I am reminded of the dialogue by Priyanka Chopra in the movie Mary Kom (2014): “Kabhi kisiko itna bhi mat darao, ki darr hi khatam ho jaye.” (Don’t scare anyone so much that his fear becomes over.) The women of Iran are done being scared, they have risen above their fears.
Here, in India, if you protest or put up a poster, you can get arrested, but in Iran, the women risk their life, identity and trace when they protest. Despite all the negative consequences, the protest is well in the open, with the women saying, “We fight we die we will take Iran back.”
The protest started in the 16th of September, and 31 are reported to be killed amid anti-hijab protest. Just take a look at the intensity in which dissent is being shown – the women protested non-violently by live steaming as they chop off their hair, without hiding their faces – they proudly protest risking their lives.
Some women cut off their hair in the middle of street in front of thousands of people – this was unprecedented, as said by the Iranians. Some men are also in support. The male population somewhere agrees that the injustices against women have been rising in the name of religion, and that there isn’t much time for Iran to become another Afghanistan.
Iran, even, blocked the internet as protests grew as women explain on social media what is happening in Iran – that, Iran authority is doing on their people what Putin is doing in Ukraine. Men and women both are participating in the growing protests, and that is why the internet is being blocked, otherwise those in power will lose control and authority.
Now, Iran President says death in custody of Mahsa Amini will be investigated…, as he was questioned by the UN. How hard-core religion can affect was demonstrated by Christiane Amanpour (CNN’s veteran anchor, interviewer) when she sat for an interview with the Iran president, but he did not show up as Christiane was not wearing hijab. This shows how much more conservative, fundamentalist and hard-core Iran as a country has become.
Now, the point is, do women have their own choice, be it in Iran, India or the USA? Where is it written that if women do not wear hijab, then she will be arrested or terminated? In which religious textbooks is this written? Where does religion dictate what we eat, how we dress, who we marry, etc.? Is the word ‘choice’ non-existent? Wherever fundamentalism increases, choice decreases. If men are so out of control, they should be wearing dark glasses covering their eyes with it. Doesn’t your religion also have rules for men?
US and Iran are considered to be on the opposite sides of the spectrum, yet, the USA is grappling with the biggest of problems. Women in the US are protesting against blanket ban on abortion. Right to abortion is being done away with again because of religion, here Christianity.
That is why an 11-year-old rape victim in Ohio is not allowed abortion under new state law. You can see that, whenever and wherever religion enters, women are bound to suffer. This is the same America, where Ilhan Omar became the first to wear hijab in the Congress. However, the right to abortion is slipping away from the hands of women, in the same country.
In India, hijab debate is re-igniting. In Iran, women fight against imposition of hijab. In India, women are against forceful ban on hijab, however, in some places like hijab in schools, army, police etc., this matter is debatable and in court. The fate of hijab in uniform will be decided by the apex court. First, it needs to be proven if it is an essential practice in the religion.
What if in India, there is a rule tomorrow that mandates purdah system, will morality police detain those who don’t follow this? It should be a matter of choice instead. This is a complicated debatable topic, but can we all at least agree that punishing woman for not wearing hijab is wrong and medieval?
Let’s think at the broader point –Where is religion taking the US, India and Iran? Some scholars agree that Islam needs internal reformation. Reforms happened in Hinduism, and today we take the name of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who was initially abused, with utmost respect.
There have been reforms in Christianity too – where Galileo Galilei, who was jailed for saying that the Earth is not at the centre of the Universe, is now called the “father” of observational astronomy, modern physics etc. So, reform occur in every religion internally, and here an example of Dubai – Are Muslims in Dubai fake because they can tolerate women’s choice, or are they more evolved in thinking? Everyone is happy living in Dubai.
Note – Being respectful of one’s choice, as well as not imposing beliefs and practices is important. It is possible to live and let live. Salute to the women in Iran for their courage in standing up against fundamentalism and extremism!
[Images from different sources]
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