Hijab in post revolutionary Iran

An Iranian woman (most likely a leftist) holding a rifle  celebrates the end of monarchy

An Iranian woman holding a rifle celebrates the end of monarchy - Kayhan, February 14, 1979


Grand Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani states that hijab is not mandatory - Ettela'at Daily, March 11, 1979

Grand Ayatollah Taleghani "hijab is not mandatory" - Ettela'at Daily, March 11, 1979
Note: This is not an official government standing on Hijab. The views expressed are solely his own.


Imam agrees with Grand Ayatollah Taleghani's views on hijab without further elaboration

Imam agrees with Grand Ayatollah Taleghani's views on hijab without further elaboration.

Iranian lawyers thank the government of Bazargan

Iranian lawyers thank the government of Bazargan

Schoolgirl responds to Simin Daneshvar

A schoolgirl responds to Simin Daneshvar

The Hijab Debate in Iranian Newspapers

Imam's view on Hijab - Ettela'at Daily, 17 Esfand 1357 (Feb. 1979)

The Hijab Debate in Iranian Newspapers

The Hijab Debate in Iranian Newspapers - 1979


Pro Hijab Demonstrators

Pro Hijab Demonstrators

Hijab doesn't mean wearing the chador

Hijab doesn't mean wearing the chador - 1979


Iranian women demonstrating againt the Islamic hijabIranian women demonstrating againt the hijab in Tehran streets

Iranian women demonstrating againt the Islamic hijab - 1979


Iranian women demonstrating againt the Islamic hijab at the judiciary

Iranian women demonstrating againt the Islamic hijab at the Judiciary - 1979






Another opinion by a cleric on Hijab

Another opinion by a cleric on Hijab - Kayhan, 1979


Imam: Women should foget the Pahalvi Era

Imam: Women should foget the Pahalvi Era "Zaman Taghoot" - Kayhan, 1979


Hijab at the workplace

Hijab at the workplace - Kayhan, 1979


Imam: Hijab must be made compulsary at government offices

Imam: Hijab must be made compulsary at government offices - Kayhan, 1979


The Hijab Debate among clerics & intellectuals

The Hijab Debate among clerics & intellectuals


Violence Against Women Will Not Be Tolerated

Violence Against Women Will Not Be Tolerated


Hijab and Islam

Just because a woman is not wearing hijab it doesn't mean she should be considered "un-Islamic"


Women demonstrating in favor of Prime Minister Bazargan

Women demonstrating in favor of Prime Minister Bazargan


Dr. Beheshti: Islam is the religion of freedom. We won't take anyone's freedom away

Islam is the religion of freedom. We won't take anyone's freedom away


Cleric expressing his views on hijab

Cleric expressing his views on hijab - Omid Javan


Cleric critical of women's right to choose what they wear

Cleric critical of women's right to choose what they wear


Police Shouldn't be excessive regarding enforcing the hijab laws

Rouhani: Police shouldn't be excessive regarding enforcing the hijab laws


Pahlavi Era magazine cover

Suggesting an alternative to the chador


Pahlavi Era magazine cover in 1968

Celebrating women's day in Iran


A beautiful Village woman

Village & nomad women have always worn some form of headcovering.


Working women at a village in Iran - ISNA

Millions of Iranian women were never affected by the new hijab law.


Female government spokesperson wearing the traditional chador - ISNA

Female government spokesperson wearing the traditional chador


Female Firefighters - ISNA

Female firefighters - The required uniform covers all the body anyway


Young women celebrating the anniversary of the revolution - Fars

Young women celebrating the anniversary of the revolution


Young women marching - Fars

Young women marching in a rally wearing "minimal" hijab


Female Voter - Mehr

A young woman wearing heavy makeup & most of her hair showing votes
in city council elections while three chadori women stand next to her.


Urban womon - ISNA

A modern urban woman wearng a long scarf & sunglasses




women at the beach - 1970s Capian Sea
Women at the beach (1970s): Posed photo shows the differences between traditional and modern lifestyles in Iran during the Pahlavi Era.




Now It's the Law!
The hijab debate is a very complex issue and chances are that it won't be resolved in the near future. It's a political hot potato. The traditionalist and modernist are evenly divided on this issue. In fact, in secular countries like Tajikistan and Turkey there is a similar discourse. The founders of the revolution truly believed that it would be possible to create a just and pure society once we adopted Islamic values. They blamed mimicking the decadent West for many ills of Pahlavi Era. However, the cultural revolution failed to create the society that the intellectual clerics had in mind.

women voters in the 2005 election - ISNA
Happy women voters at a polling station (loose hijab with some hair showing in the front)

Iranian women were at the forefront of the revolution. They fought fiercely to end the tyranny of the monarchy. Their dream was about social justice and true equality. The strict Islamic dress code (hijab) became the law in 1980 despite large demonstrations by the women's groups. Now, it's almost impossible to reverse it. The dress code is very strict (maghna'eh or chador) for government employees but relaxed (loose scarf) for those who work in the private sector. Women in public places are required to wear little or no makeup and dress modestly. The law is often enforced by morality police. The government feels the need to prevent women from becoming promiscuous and fight the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Furthermore, it aims at shedding the ugly Western image. The government role at times has been a tricky balancing act. The conservative and traditionalist (approximately 60% of adults) demand that women wear the chador and stay at home with kids. However, the government allows women to be active in all aspects of public life. But, the catch is that those who wear a strict hijab get preferential treatment. Those who wear a loose scarf risk harassment and arrest if too much hair (subjective "gray" area) is shown. Thus the dress code causes inequality between different types of women. Finally, women are also allowed to participate in sporting events as long as they abide by Islamic rules, regulations and dress code. Overall, the government gets a passing grade but there is a lot of room for improvement. It should stress and promote Islam and modernity in order to survive.

A Flight Attendant - ISNA
A flight attendant in official uniform (strict hijab with no hair showing)

It's noteworthy to mention that the tradition of wearing some form of head covering for women goes back to pre-Islamic Iran. The veil and the seclusion of women were adopted from the Assyrians. Yet, feminist groups have advocated for freedom of choice and for hijab to become a personal option. This idea requires government protection to work and may not work if the society is not ready for it. Besides, true gender equality does not exist anywhere in our region. Opponents argue violence against women may increase if the parliament changes the law on dress code. In fact, there is a lot harassment and violence against unveiled women in Pakistan where hijab is optional. Many women lead stressful and unhappy lives despite having more freedom. Women who defy social norms are routinely assassinated. The police cannot protect women from so many religious extremists. It is vital to take small steps and then monitor the situation. A workable compromise might be the dissolution of morality police which has been the worst PR nightmare for the government. Iran is perceived as a backward police state by the rest of the world because of constant harassment of ordinary citizens. Post-revolutionary Iran is first and formest a People's Republic. Let people to police themselves.



Related Links
Dress Code
Fashion in pre-revolutionary Iran
Iranian Traditional Costume | Historical and period costumes of Iran
Hijab in America
Iran Women


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