Ali Deilami

Why Iran is an anomaly among Islamic countries?

In the past few years, before the recent protests in Iran began, a brief story became quite famous in Persian Twitter and Instagram. It was viral for years, until this September. The tale was about a cruel King who broke the people with heavy taxes, killed and tortured innocent folks, and also prohibited something ridiculous. In some versions of the story it was burping, and in the other versions farting! Hence, people started civil disobedience movements to fart or burp, but it was exactly what the king wanted, a distraction from important issues. The forbidden winds were a relief valve for the state.

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After this story went viral, this thought passed from almost all Iranian minds, that maybe the mandatory hijab in Iran is also a relief valve. Something to distract us from the serious crimes of the regime and how they are neglecting the country. At the first glance, anyone could see many issues much more important than hijab in Iran, such as supporting terrorism, expanding poverty, horrible conditions of life out of the cities, etc. the story actually makes sense, but now we see that interference in peoples dressing, had no relief for the Islamic state! enforcing mandatory Hijab is surprisingly important in Iran. Actually the first protest after the 1979 Islamic revolution was about enforcing the hijab. These protests were held on 8th of march,1979, in Tehran, after Ayatollah Khomeini declared that the female civil servants must wear hijab in the offices. This announcement led to a limited protest of modern women in Tehran against the mandatory hijab.

Italian communist journalist and politician, Maria Antonietta Macciocchi, who visited Iran at that time, published an article in the Le Monde about this event on 30th of march 1979. She compared the Iranian protesters to the Kronstadt sailors. the last late attempt to stop the dictatorship. but as Macciocchi said, those women were just a minority. She predicted no one would see demonstrations of women in Tehran again. She passed away in 2007, so she left this world with the thought that her anticipation was right! but now we are witnessing the wrongness of that forecast. Iranian women are in the center of a general demonstration against the Islamic dictatorship. I used the words “center” and “general”, because It’s not only a pure female movement to divide the world between evil men and divine women like some western movements! and their goal is not only abolition of the hijab code, but abolition of the dictatorship in their country.


In a logical point of view, the clothes and hijab problem couldn’t be the first priority of Iranians. but for the young Iranian generation, the hijab rule and general restrictions on clothing and relationship with the opposite gender, is like the Islamic republic’s Bastille! a symbol of the authority that they hate. For them, collapse of the hijab code in Iran, means collapse of the autocracy! This harsh approach of Iranians against the Islamic culture is an anomaly among Islamic countries. Especially when we remember this nation, especially regarding the fact they abdicated the modern shah and replaced him with ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, to establish a theocratic state and enforce the law of Islam. We can define the thing currently going on in Iran as the consequences of the Islamotrauma that an Islamic state caused, constantly for a long time. 


After 43 years, Iran has changed a lot since the first days of the Islamic revolution. Of course Europe saw even faster changes during its history, but apparently even in the middle east, basic beliefs of the societies can change in one or two generations. Something spectacular about the 2022 version of Iran, which indicates the great extent of the change, is the secular spirit of the protest. It’s actually odd to see a popular movement in the middle east, which doesn’t rely on any religious protagonist, doesn’t refer to any verses from the Quran or Islamic stories, and also doesn’t scream any religious chant!  you can’t hear any Allah Akbar, the common phrase and most frequent slogan among all Islamic cults and communities, from Iranians in the street. While in the long history of that region, Allah Akbar always cried by those who were killed and those who got killed. Enemies made their arguments valid according to the same book, and All sides of any conflict used to talk to their troops with the same Islamic words. This Iran is a distinguish anomaly. 


Women in many Islamic communities aren’t under legal pressure to wear hijab, but the social pressure makes them to wear it. Even if they immigrate from their country, the majority of them still cling to the beliefs of their childhoods and wear hijab in the developed countries. The difference I want to illustrate here is, In Iran girls usually take off their head scarfs in the cafes, and me or any other boy in that cafe never criticise them for not wanting to wear it. In Iran despite the pressure from the state and its morality police, the social pressure on girls to wear hijab has reduced day after day in the past 43 years. And simultaneously the legal pressure and daily torments, pushed people to be angry at Islam.


Hence also the actual belief on this religion reduced. Today you can hardly see any Iranian female migrator with a hijab in Europe! Hegel would be so glad, if he was alive and saw this ultimate dialectic! Although, If I had the power of resurrection to relieve only one person, my choice wouldn’t be Hegel, but I would call Oriana Fallaci from death to watch Iran. I think she deserves to see the fundamental changes of the Middle eastern institutions. Whether you call these Iranian protests a revolution or not, it’s a crucial turning point, not only for Iran, but for all the region.


Celebrities are praising the Iranian women, and yes all this sparked by the death of a young Kurd girl in the custody of a specialized section of the Iranian police for enforcing Islamic law (so called the morality police), but men are as active as women in this uprising and they all fight for a vast domain of issues. (the most famous carol of these protests, “baraye” by Shervin Hajipour, beautifully expresses the variety of this issues). Still If you are too excited about Iran, you can even use some formidable phrases, like the First female revolution in the history of mankind, to describe it! But actually the gender of a revolution is only important in the west. Persian is a language without sexual pronoun, and hence gender isn’t specific in it like most European tongues. If you check Iranian activities on social media in the past few weeks, you rarely see them calling their movement male or female.


Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Hope is the worst evil, because it prolongs the torments of man”. Since the 90’s, Iranian anti-government protests have often happened. But there was always hope for reform, especially because of the moderate politicians inside the Islamic state’s body. Now Iranians are beyond any hope, these demonstrations are the matter of life or death for them. Usually revolutionaries are idealistic, but in Iran the repressive forces are idealistic and people on the street are totally materialistic. Oppressors don’t kill demonstrators because it’s their job, they kill because it’s the way to heaven. On the other hand, protesters don’t follow any ism, no philosophical or political or social doctrine and ideology, they are just yearning for a normal life. 

About the Author
Ali was a journalist in Iran, working for ISNA (Iranian Students News Agency) from 2019 to 2021. He now lives in Milan, Italy.
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