Iran is an Islamic republic, that is a republic only in name as it is more and more a totalitarian state with a religious zeal. Since 1979, when the Iranian revolution toppled the Shah of Iran, women are compulsorily forced to cover their head and wear the hijab.Though the Hijab does not find a place in the Islamic holy scriptures, yet the ruling religious dispensation in Iran has enforced it on the women. The irony is that such dress restrictions do not exist for men.Women who refused to follow in line are often arrested by the religious police and fined or sent to jail.  Many will not know that a woman in Iran cannot even go to a university, without the permission of her husband or guardian. In short, Iran is a terrible place There was a long-simmering discontent against this draconian law enforced by the Iranian government of wearing the Hijab compulsorily.  But now it is reported that this discontent burst into the open along with the agitation against the Iranian government. Women have taken to the street and publicly removed their hijab as a protest against the unjust law.

Agitation and demonstrations

President Hassan Rouhani is considered a moderate, but he and the Iranian revolution have not been able to fulfill the aspirations of the Iranian people. Recently Iran was rocked bdemonstrations against the Iranian government because of a scarcity of jobs and poor economy which had lead to an unprecedented rise in prices. These demonstrations gave a chance to women also to come forward and protest against the religious policies of the government notably the compulsory wearing of headscarves and Hijab.

The Iranian police have got into the act and arrested 29 women for defying the law to cover one's head. Women in Iran feel that this law is not only archaic but restrictive and should be annulled. The government as usual in a cover up has blamed the women's agitation on "foreign powers". It required great courage for a girl to come out in public and agitate by removing her headscarf. Yet the unthinkable has happened and there are photographs available that bring out girls and women removing and waving the head scarfs  For all his faults, the Shah believed in equality of women and had enforced laws that gave equal rights to women of Iran.

A Terrible Place

Since 1979, Iran is a terrible place to live in. The charm of the Iranian revolution has soured and the economy is stagnant.Restrictive laws are also passed and many so-called ''enemies of the state" including young boys of 13 to 14 have been executed. Iran is also fomenting trouble in the Middle East and by proxy fighting a war with Saudi Arabia for dominance in the Islamic world. This is a far cry from the days of the Shah, who was an ally of the United States.  That was his downfall. Perhaps in case, he had steered a moderate course, he may have survived. The Iranian revolution was a dream for equality and a  which would be "free" in the real sense. It has not happened and repressive measures are common. The economy is also stagnant, as Iran spends millions of dollars in supporting Shia revolutionary movements abroad. With lack of jobs and rising prices, the dam burst with the recent riots against the government all over Iran is an extension of this.

President Trump is aware of the deep discontent and has for that reason extended the waiver for the Nuclear Deal. Iran would be put to greater hardship in case the US rescinds the nuclear agreement. In case sanctions are imposed again, the Iranian economy will nose dive and bring greater hardship to the people. The simmering discontent has come out in the open and women for long repressed in Iran also came out in the open asking for an end to discriminatory laws like wearing the Hijab. The authorities have clamped down but as we say the Genie has come out of the bottle and apart from bloodshed, I wonder how this agitation by women of Iran can be contained.

Future

Iranian women are coming out into the open against the hijab. The Times of India has reported that it was a sight to watch young women remove their scarves and wave them in the open market. In a closed Islamic society this requires courage. It's not like India ( we should take pride in it) where freedom has a meaning. In Iran like in Saudi Arabia, there is the religious police that has special powers. This police enforces "Islamic traditions " and laws. What Islamic tradition is nobody has defined. It is an amorphous content enunciated by some Mullahs. The Islamic scriptures do not mention about burka or hijab. It only mentions dressing modestly. This is again open to interpretation.

Sooner than later the Iranian revolution will have to change and the repressive regime removed. A regime that has a different set of laws for women and men is an anachronism in the 21st century. But it is something that is not going to happen overnight. Reagan had referred to Iran as part of the  "Axis of Evil". One can't help agreeing with him. Especially when we get reports of young boys being executed as counter-revolutionaries and keeping women suppressed. Is this the freedom from the Shah of Iran which everybody yearned for ?. He seems to appear in a better light now.


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