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Protests Against Compulsory Hijab Continue, Iran Police Arrests 29 Girls

Tehran police says 29 women protesting against compulsory hijab have been have been arrested.

Police has apprehended 29 “deceived” young women who have “disrupted the social safety of the citizens”, Iranian media quoted a Tehran police statement on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the trend appears to be ongoing in Iran. In one photo which attracted a lot of attention on social media, a cleric is seen atop a telecom box, waving a flag of the Islamic Republic.

Masih Alinejad, Iranian exiled journalist and women’s rights activist, reacted to the photo in an Instagram post: “The fact that you are holding a flag instead of a baton shows that we have won!”

One day before anti-establishment protests erupted in Iranian cities last December, a video was posted on social media showing an unveiled young woman standing on a telecom box on Enghelab (Revolution) street, located in downtown Tehran, waving her white scarf on a stick.

The video inspired many women across the country and soon photos and videos of other women copying her action were posted online.

Even men and some veiled women joined the campaign.

Another viral video shows an elderly lady who - in solidarity with the protestors - climbs a fountain base, takes off her white headscarf and waves it with her walking stick.

The campaign against compulsory hijab was originally started by Masih Alinejad. Alinejad asked Iranian women to wear white scarfs as sign of protest on every Wednesday. She also runs the website My Stealthy Freedom where women in Iran post photos of themselves in public without hijab.

​By putting their scarfs on a stick, they are protesting against arrest, suppression, and their violated rights, Alinejad said in an interview with Radio Farda.

“Police has officially announced that within a year, they have arrested or warned 3.6 million women for violating the hijab rule. 18,000 of them have been sent to the court. 40,000 vehicles have been confiscated because their drivers have violated the hijab rule”, she said and added that her campaign has been a reaction to this situation.

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s General Prosecutor described the protests as “childish”, “minor” and “not worthy of attention”.

“I believe those who did this, have acted due to ignorance and provocation by people from outside of the country”, Montazeri was quoted saying by Iranian media.

However, Soheila Jelodarzadeh, a member of the Iranian parliament has expressed empathy with the protesters and has said that it was the result of pressure on women and “erroneous behavior” of the regime toward them.

“We have imposed unnecessary restrictions on women and that has resulted to rebellion, and now the girls of Enghelab street put their scarfs on a stick.”

As the number of Revolution Street Girls increase it would pose a problem for authorities to arrest everyone. In a new video, an elderly woman, who can hardly walk, climbs a platform and with her walking stick takes off her headscarf and starts waving it in the air.

Hijab has a complicated history in Iran. The chador was forbidden in 1936 during the reign of Reza Shah, the founder of the Pahlavi dynasty. But, in 1941, he abdicated to Crown Prince Mohammad-Reza, who relaxed the dress code and allowed women to wear the hijab if they chose.

Just a few months after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, despite mass protests, a law forcing women to not only cover their heads but also wear loose clothing came into effect. The law was enforced with brute force on the streets until all women felt no other alternative but to follow the dress code.