Khamenei praises hijab after woman who removed headscarf was jailed

"The Hijab is a means of immunity not restriction."

March 8, 2018 14:26
3 minute read.
Khamenei praises hijab after woman who removed headscarf was jailed

Women attend Friday prayers in Tehran February 4, 2011.. (photo credit: REUTERS/RAHEB HOMAVANDI)

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Thursday praised the the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, decrying western women's "nudity" in a meeting with a group of Ahlulbait University members, according to reports.

"In Islamic logic, there's a framework to define women's roles. An Islamic woman is the one who has faith and chastity and leads the most crucial section of human education. She influences the society, achieves scientific and spiritual growth: She is the director of the family's hub. In contrast, there has always been a deviant framework; today, that different model for women is the one offered by the west," he was quoted as saying by an English Twitter account dedicated to translating his speeches.

"Today, according to the western model, the most sought after characteristics of a woman involve her ability to physically attract men and appease them: one distinct image (portrayed in society) of the western woman is her nudity," he continued. "By promoting modest dress (hijab), Islam has blocked the path which would lead women to such a deviant lifestyle. The Hijab is a means of immunity not restriction."

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Khamenei's words came on International Women's Day after reports Wednesday by Western media that the Iranian woman, who was arrested for removing her headscarf in protests last month, was sentenced to two years in prison.

The woman, identified later as Vida Movahed, was dubbed the "Girl of Revolution Street" on Twitter after she removed her white headscarf in public, holding it up on a stick while standing on a communication box in the middle of Tehran's Enghelab street.

Under Iran's interpretation of Islamic law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair with a scarf, known as a hijab, and wear long, loose-fitting clothes. Violators are publicly admonished, fined or arrested.

In February 2018, women all over Iran took to the streets, holding their hijabs aloft. The images quickly spread on social media, as women symbolically rejected the "wider interference of religion in their lives," according to Masih Alinejad, a prominent activist who hosts the website My Stealthy Freedom.

"These women are saying, 'It is enough - it is the 21st century and we want to be our true selves."

Unrest quickly spread across the country and the focus broadened as protesters began calling for Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to step down. Over 30 women were arrested, among them Vida Movahed.

Movahed, was reported missing after the protests which contributed to images of her going viral and women all over Iran following her example in taking off their hijab publicly and posting their pictures on Twitter with the hashtag #where_is_she?

According to a Facebook post in February by Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, Mohaved was released from custody shortly after being arrested. However, on Wednesday, she was sentenced to two years in prison, a much more extreme sentence than the usual $25 fine and short prison terms.

Activist Alinejad was not deterred by the harsh actions against Mohaved. On Wednesday, she called for more protests on her Twitter account, stating that "Today #March8_Iran we take the street back by walking unveiled and practicing our civil disobedience."

The Thomas Reuters Foundation contributed to this report.

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