Protests erupted across Iran following the death of Mahsa Amini, who fell into a coma and then died while in the custody of Iran’s morality police, and an outpouring of support poured in from around the world. Amini, a 22-year-old woman visiting Tehran in September, was arrested for allegedly “improperly” wearing her hijab. Her death prompted women all over Iran and other countries to remove their hijabs or cut their hair in protest. The most recent show of solidarity against hijab enforcement comes from Kerala, India, where a group of female Muslim demonstrators set fire to a hijab.
The protest occurred during a free thinking seminar hosted by the rationalist organisation Kerala Yukthivadi Sangham in Kozhikode. Other women held signs with messages of support and a picture of Amini while the hijab was being lit. It’s the first time a hijab has been burned in the country. While India is a secular state by law, and Kerala is considered a progressive region in comparison to the rest of India, some families and communities insist on wearing a hijab, so Muslim women who participate in these protests may face retaliation.
Regardless of the consequences, people all over the world are empathising with Iran’s women and are emboldened to make their voices heard. Because of the strict observance set in place, the hijab, which became mandatory for women and girls over the age of nine to wear in Iran shortly after the 1979 revolution, is more than just a piece of fabric or a sign of modesty. Though the hijab has been made mandatory for decades, the election of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in 2021 made enforcement much more vigorous and violent. Women are liberating themselves from symbolic oppression by burning the hijab. It is a fight for their right to wear whatever they want.
When a movement emerges in any country, it is always reassuring to know that the people’s cries are being heard and supported by those on the outside. Despite international support, Iranian women continue to carry the baton for liberty, chanting “Women, life, freedom,” and defying oppressive authorities at all levels. Unfortunately, 321 protesters have been killed, and over a thousand have been charged for taking part in the unrest. Nonetheless, Iranian women continue to fight and rise against those who want to dictate what they can and cannot wear.