[PHOTOS] Iranian Women Are Defying The Law And Taking Off Their Hijab In Public

By posting hijab-less photos onto a 'stealthy' Facebook page, Iranian women are reclaiming their image from the western media and the Islamic republic.

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Iranian women are posting photos of themselves without the hijab on a new Facebook page launched to share "stealthy" moments of freedom from the veil, igniting a debate about the freedom to wear or not wear the hijab

"This is Iran… The feeling of the wind blowing through every strand of hair, is a girl’s biggest dream."

Image via BBC

A woman stands in a green valley, staring at a far-off mountain vista. Her arms are covered and her face obscured. Her honey-blond hair is the only clue to her identity.

This is one of thousands of photos posted to Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women, a Facebook page dedicated to “Iranian women inside the country who want to share their “stealthily” taken photos without the veil.”

The page, which has more than 250,000 "Likes" at the time of publishing this story, features Iranian women joyfully revelling without their headscarves

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The new Facebook page, which is called in Farsi آزادی های یواشکی زنان در ایران Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women, is also using the hashtag #mystealthyfreedom. In the last few days this campaign, which started on 3 May 2014, has become an international vortex of support for the freedom for all women in any religion to be free of compulsory hair covering.

It was set up by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian political journalist based in the UK, who told the BBC: "My hair was like a hostage to the government. The government still has a lot of hostages."

In this Facebook photo Masih Alinejad runs down a street in London, U.K. Alinejad has been collecting and posting photos to the 'Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women' Faceebook page since May 3, 2014

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Alinejad got the idea after she posted some photos of herself without the hijab to her own Facebook page. The images were liked thousands of times. So many women began to send her their own pictures that she decided to set up a dedicated page.

Though she's well-known for being critical of the government in Iran, she insists the page is not political. "These are not women activists, but just ordinary women talking from their hearts."

"My problem is not having to wear the headscarf. My problem is not having a choice," writes one woman on the Facebook page

It had been the very fist time I had ever seen the desert. As sun was rising in order to respect her beauty, I took my headscarf off so that she could see me beautiful too . That feeling was great.. I was..fearless in the desert.. with my head uncovered in the desert

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"Stealthy freedom means, just for a few seconds, I will be what I want to be," writes another

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"No words to say. Just that freedom is wonderfully enjoyable, even a brief moment of it," reads a caption to one of the photos uploaded

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"Hoping for the day when all my nation’s women can taste freedom with their whole bodies and souls," reads another featuring a woman standing in a cornfield with her undone Hijab streaming behind her

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The photos vary in their degree of defiance, some of them depicting uncovered women next to their husbands/mothers, others standing next to the Grand Ayatullah’s office or in the middle of a packed subway car

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However, Alinejad, whose mother wears a hijab, says she has no intention of encouraging defiance. "I’m not asking people to take off their scarves," she says. “But you never see these ordinary, smiling women, full of color in the Iranian papers. I’m not fighting the hijab, I’m fighting censorship.”
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Alinejad is meanwhile worried about Facebook pages with similar names to hers that have cropped up over the past few days. "I verify every single image, and post them anonymously," she says. "I don’t know who runs these other pages, maybe it’s the government, maybe it’s someone who wants to abuse the pictures. It could be dangerous for the women. I worry that they may be sending their images in the wrong direction."

A recent cartoon by award winning Iranian cartoonist Touka Neyestani shows a woman in a cage with a lion who is not happy, but silent as a woman stands without her hijab in the breeze as strange men look on

The Facebook page and the photos have also come under heavy criticism. Alinejad said fundamentalists, conservative Iranian news agencies and some reformists have all criticized the page

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She has also come under personal attack, with some critics even accusing her in Iranian media of working for a foreign government. Alinejad -- whose past reporting on Iranian politics led to a smear campaign against her and her family and her eventual move to the U.K. -- is undeterred.

She insists she's not trying to start any type of political movement, instead she's simply reporting on the feelings and sentiments already held by many Iranian women. "I'm a journalist, I'm doing my job," she said. "I'm reporting about what exists in Iran, I'm not creating anything."

She added that she's not against wearing the hijab, but believes that the choice must be left up to each individual woman. And many of the women who've thrown their support behind the campaign agree.

One of the photos posted to the Facebook page shows a mother and daughter standing side-by-side, one wearing a headscarf and the other not. "Everyone has the right to have freedom of thought; to choose their own beliefs," writes the daughter in the photo. "My mother is also entitled to choose her own way of clothing; and I want to be free to choose for myself. We must respect each other's opinions."
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A video showing images that have been posted to the Stealthy Freedoms page of Iranian Women, with a song that speaks to the strength and beauty of women and girls throughout Asia as it portrays Iranian women, and their male supporters, from all walks of life:

Wearing the Hijab has been compulsory since the 1979 Revolution and the lack of it is punishable by fines, imprisonment or lashes

Ever since the Islamic Revolution 35 years ago, it has been illegal for a woman to leave the house without wearing a headscarf. The punishment ranges from a fine to imprisonment.

The hijab is a controversial issue in Iran. A recent billboard campaign reminding women to cover themselves up, was mocked on social media for comparing women to chocolates in a wrapper. But many support the wearing of the hijab, arguing it's an important part of Islamic law - there was a demonstration in Tehran last week, with protesters calling for a more strict implementation of the rules.

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