Iranian women arrested for removing mandatory hijabs in public protest

PHOTO: A university student attends a protest inside Tehran University as a smoke grenade is thrown by anti-riot Iranian police, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017, in a photo obtained by the AP.
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Tehran police arrested 29 people on Thursday after an unprecedented protest against the legal requirement that women must wear headscarves in public took place this week, according to Iranian media reports.

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In a symbolic move, at least six women climbed on utility boxes on busy streets in Tehran on Monday, took off their headscarves, or hijabs, put them on sticks and waved them for some minutes. The photos went viral on social media networks with the hashtag #NoToCompulsaryHijab.

Omid Memarian, an Iranian journalist, tweeted, "A growing number of women are removing their mandatory head scarves & waving them on the streets of Tehran: a courageous symbol of civil protest against the hijab; forced on women in Iran for decades. Six women so far and it seems they're just starting!"

The women were called the "Girls of the Revolution Street," in a nod to the woman who had initiated the move last month on a street in Tehran named "Enghelab," meaning "the revolution."

The protest was peaceful, but not wearing hijab can lead to prosecution in Iran.

Tehran police said on Thursday it arrested the protestors, saying they had been "fooled" by the "White Wednesday" campaign. White Wednesday is an online social network campaign initiated by Masih Alinejad, a New York-based Iranian journalist and activist, who had encouraged women to uncover their hair and send their photos to her campaign’s social network.

"Police arrested 29 people who have been fooled by this campaign and uncovered their hijab," Iran's semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported.

Journalist Nahid Molavi shared a photo on Twitter of a hijabi woman who also joined the movement in the religious city of Mashhad, translated to English as, "She has chosen the veil and has stood up for the freedom of choice for other women. If it is not beautiful, then what can be?"

Public expectations for more social and economic freedom are high after a series of protests in the country last month in which Iranians took over the streets in many cities across the country, objecting to unemployment, poverty and social restrictions. Over 20 people, including civilians and cops, were killed in those protests.