Journalist Masih Alinejad was awarded the Women’s Rights Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy last week for her activism supporting Iranian women who choose not to cover their heads in a hijab.
Alinejad’s Facebook page, “My Stealthy Freedom”, has gained international attention and more than 700,000 followers by posting pictures of Iranian women without the hijab. After the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the government made it mandatory for women to cover their heads when in public or in a governmental building. In the years since then, women have been protesting what one woman on the Facebook page called “our most basic right, our right to choose what to wear.”
Compulsory head covering has been protested by Iranian women in varying degrees since the law passed over thirty years ago. Perhaps one of the most severe and dramatic actions against the law came from Homa Darabi, a pediatrician in Iran who killed herself in 1994 through self-immolation in the middle of a busy square, where she tore off her headscarf and yelled messages such like “Death to oppression! Long live liberty!” Darabi had been fired after refusing to wear the hijab, as she claimed it interfered with her ability to care for her patients and be a good doctor. Media coverage for Darabi’s protest and death was poor, and sources within Iran painted Darabi as mentally ill.
The human rights award was presented to Alinejad for giving voice to “voiceless” women like Darabi, and for Alinejad’s part in “stirring the consciousness of humanity to support the struggle of Iranian women for basic human rights, freedom and equality.”
“From seven-year-old schoolgirls to 70-year-old grandmothers, women in Iran are all forced to wear the hijab,” said Alinejad in a statement for the Geneva Summit. “Hopefully this award will create an opportunity for the voices of Iranian women who say no to the forced hijab to echo throughout the halls of the United Nations.”
Media Resources: My Stealthy Freedom, Facebook; On the Issues Magazine; the Guardian 2/24/15