[guest post by Dana]
Last weekend, the National Organization for Women (NOW) held a Strategy Summit in New Mexico.
A number of resolutions were on the docket for consideration. Here are a few that were passed by the feminist organization: Reframing Abortion Rights Advocacy, Creating a National Monument To Honor Our Foremothers, and the ubiquitous Dismantling White Privilege.
What didn’t pass muster? Ironically, a resolution titled Culturally Oppressive Laws Against Women and Girls.
All the resolution called for was a public education campaign. However, it specifically singled out Sharia law and listed the human and women’s rights violations performed in its name: forced veiling, forced child marriage, normalized beating, honor killing, purdah, stoning to death, hanging, and flogging for non-compliant women.
The language of the resolution was specific:
“Whereas, one of NOW’s official priorities is to eliminate violence against women…we urge NOW members to educate law enforcement, educators, medical professionals, and community leaders to the danger of Sharia law.”
NOW just could not bring themselves to pass the resolution, but tabled it for more discussion.
In light of the absurdity that is NOW, I want to draw attention to a unique group of women who don’t have the luxury of debating a resolution – as if such a resolution would have one iota of impact on their daily lives. And although facing an extremely difficult circumstance, these women are choosing to put themselves at risk in their defiant and courageous fight for freedom. This movement is about individual action. Their acts may seem small, but in their proper context they are enormous.
London-based journalist Masih Alinejad began a Facebook page, which she called My Stealthy Freedom. The site provides a place where women from Iran can post their photos without wearing their head scarves. The risk associated with this act is great as it defies the oppressive religious laws and dress code for women. Alinejad’s objective is not to ban the head scarf, but rather that women be given the choice whether to wear one. The movement has exploded since its inception in May, 2014.
Here are a few of these defiant acts done in the name of freedom this July 4th weekend (the commentary below each photo is the individual’s reaction to appearing in public, unveiled):
here is one of the work regions of Asalouyeh. I toke off my scarf to take some pictures.Then I saw some women with their families came after me and dared to take off their scarves in that place which was full of men and started to take pictures. I was so happy that I was the starter of such an action, although it was a small act but it was a pleasure.
Names and addresses of all my country’s alleys, streets and squares are Azadi (freedom). I’ve been fasting freedom for years but now I’ll be a muezzin and I call freedom Azan. I break my fast by all freedom that I just saw its name in the city just for being a woman.
Stealthy freedom, Ghadir Blvrd., Bandar-e-Abbas. I’ll say this simply, I want freedom. It is my right as a human being to be free. I want to shout out my freedom! Exactly in front of the bill board behind me!! I was pulled over on time while driving, because of “inappropriate dressing”. They towed away my car and called me to court. We are suffocating here under the ruling of this tyranny.
As a result of Alinejad’s My Stealthy Freedom page, she is facing grotesque attacks from Iran state television:
Vahid Yaminpour, a conservative Iranian commentator and TV personality, is alleging that Alinejad was raped on the streets of London by three men as her son was made to stand by as a witness.
“Masih Alinejad is a whore, and not a heretic as some people claim her to be,” Yaminpour wrote on his Facebook page. “We shouldn’t elevate her to the level of a heretic. She’s just trying to compensate her psychological (and probably financial) needs by recruiting young women and sharing her notoriety with younger women who are still not prostitutes.”
Alinejad denied all allegations in an interview with ABC News, citing the comments as a weak attempt by Iranian officials to smear her reputation and quell the explosive activity around her Facebook page, which has now gained more than 450,000 likes.
“They want to keep journalists silent,” she said. “I’ve been attacked several times, but this was the most fabricated, most disgusting news about me.”
The movement brings mixed feelings, as well:
“In Iran, being an Iranian journalist means that if you always break censorship, break the barrier, you’re going to get attacked,” she said. “It means you have to live in danger all the time.”
The backlash against her campaign has taken away any hope Alinejad had of returning to Iran, because “if they can rape you in their imagination, they can rape you when they are close to you.”
Still, the choice between going home and reuniting with her family or giving the women she considers to be her sisters a platform weighs heavily on the journalist.
“Do I go back to my country and keep silent, or stay abroad and be louder and louder, to be the voice of those mothers who lost a loved one and do not have any voice inside, and to be the voice of those women who do not believe in a mandatory hijab who need a voice, who need a platform?” she asked.
For Alinejad, there is only one answer.
“If you look at my inbox and read the messages that women send to me,” she said, “they knew the dangers and the risks, but they wanted to send their own message.
“I can’t leave them.”
An Iranian grandmother who posted her unveiled photo, eloquently sums it up:
I take my scarf off whenever and wherever I get the chance to do so. Flying inside the cage is the most expressive sort of objection… Alas the broken wing bird doesn’t have the chance to do it.
h/t PJ Tatler