The debate over the compulsory hijab law in Iran dominated headlines this past summer as protests erupted nationwide protesting the law. Now, the wife of Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, has spoken out to defend the legislation, saying that it is meant to promote respect for women.
In an op-ed in a major Iranian newspaper, Rouhani’s wife, Sahebaei Firouzabadi, said that the law is necessary in order to protect “the social morality of society,” adding that it is “out of respect for women and their feminine identity and human dignity”. The piece was seen by many as an attempt to shift public opinion on the issue.
The hijab is required for women in Iran, and violators or those who appear to be in violation of the law face up to 10 years in prison. However, Firouzabadi argued that the law actually protects women, and is about “fighting [the] extreme social objectification of women”.
The issue captured worldwide attention this past summer, with many Iranians from all walks of life protesting the restrictive law. Photos and videos of protesters with colorful hijabs holding “My Stealthy Freedom” signs quickly made their rounds around social media, and also sparked a wider debate about the right to freedom of expression and the “one size fits all” approach to dress codes that disproportionately affects women.
While the protests resulted in little visible change to the compulsory hijab law, it did mark a broader challenge to the Iranian government’s oppressive policies. Nonetheless, it appears that Rouhani’s wife is trying to divert the discussion away from it being a matter of human rights to one of morality, with her argument failing to mention freedom of expression or the human right to dress as one wishes.
Regardless, the compulsory hijab law continues to remain in place in Iran, and violators shall, according to Firouzabadi’s argument, still face up to 10 years in jail.