The founder of a movement challenging Iran’s compulsory hijab law says it gives her “goosebumps” to see women taking off their headscarves and waving them defiantly on street corners in the Islamic republic.
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The flagrant acts of protest are just the latest evolution of a movement started years ago by journalist and activist Masih Alinejad, who has been campaigning against compulsory hijab laws since 2014. The whole thing began with a no-hijab selfie campaign dubbed My Stealthy Freedom, and has since evolved into a more focused movement called White Wednesdays.
“I decided to pick a colour and to pick a day because the campaign got bigger and bigger,” Alinejad told CTV News Channel on Wednesday.
The New York-based activist launched White Wednesdays last year and has been promoting it by sharing videos on her Instagram account of women defiantly waving their white hijabs in public, sometimes on the ends of long sticks.
“They’re using the most visible symbol of oppression as a flag and protesting against compulsory hijab,” she said.
Last week, Iran arrested 29 people, most of them women, in connection with demonstrations against the country’s headscarf laws.
“As a woman, if you don’t wear a hijab, you get arrested, you get jailed between 2-10 months,” Alijenad said.
She added that she is “proud” of the “brave” women who took part in the protests, although she’s also scared for them.
“I get goosebumps,” she said. “These women got arrested, but there are also a lot of women and men from different cities now joining the movement, saying no to discriminatory laws, especially compulsory hijab.”
Alinejad said the White Wednesdays movement is at a critical point in its evolution, because it’s moving from an online movement to an offline, public call for change.
“That’s why the movement is gaining momentum,” she said.
Alinejad has shared dozens of photos and videos of protesters on her Instagram over the last week.
She said many of these women are “risking their lives” by participating in White Wednesdays, and they’re not going to stop until they see change.
“They have been humiliated and patronized for years,” she said.
“These women are not going to give up.”
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