Iranian Women Take Back What's Theirs: Common Feature In The Photos
08 June 2014
By Diana Moukalled
The beach or the countryside, a country lane or a main
road: the common denominator between them is Iranian
women and girls removing their headscarves, raising
them in the air joyously and taking photos of
themselves to document the fleeting moment before
anyone can see them and persecute them.
A deluge of photos has poured onto the "My Stealthy
Freedom" Facebook page: images of dozens of Iranian
women who decided to post personal photos showing
their hair uncovered in the sunshine and fresh air, in
open defiance of the dress code imposed on them in
The title of the page includes the words "freedom" and
"stealth"—but when freedom needs to be stealthy, it is
no longer freedom. This may be exactly what the
Iranian women wanted to highlight in their photos.
A common feature in the photos is a smile: a smile of
victory, even if it's a passing, "stealthy" one, as
they describe it. It's the type of thing that can
gather momentum, and it did because of that Facebook
The phenomenon was launched by Iranian–British
journalist Masih Alinejad when she photographed
herself walking in London with a smile on her face and
the wind blowing through her hair, and then posted it
That photo made many Iranian women feel resentful of
their stolen liberty, so they filled the Facebook page
with photos that displayed their daring, which the
current regime has failed to suppress in the 35 years
since it was founded, despite all its attempts.
What is amazing is that all the women posted photos
showing their faces, which doubled their defiance of
the regime in Iran. Of course, a response came quickly
through the official Iranian media, which accused
Alinejad of being a conspirator and foreign agent and
of planning to corrupt society.
The battle seems to be at an early stage, however, as
the number of Iranian women posting on the page grows
daily, despite the fact it is less than a month old.
For Iran, this summer's style of confrontation is
new—the country's morality police has never faced this
kind of defiance before. The department tasked by the
Iranian regime with monitoring the public's behavior,
launches a campaign every year to apprehend Iranian
women who try to use the hot weather as an excuse to
bend the rules on the hijab.
Some may see the Facebook page showing Iranian women
with their hair uncovered as nothing more than a
gesture that has no real significance. That may be
true. But the flip side to this page is its direct
defiance of one of the strictest rules of the Iranian
regime and its attempt to control the lifestyle of its
citizens, and especially women.
In my opinion, any political protest faced by the
regime is less of a danger to it than the "My Stealthy
Freedom" Facebook page.
Here, the pictures strike at what the regime wants to
impose on Iranian women as individuals, its own symbol
of authority over them. It is an implicit battle
between the regime and a virtual, symbolic citizen,
someone the regime does not have the tools to stop.
What authority is capable of confronting photos of
smiling women showing their hair in the fresh air and
under the sun?
One photo alone strikes at the heart of the regime
much deeper than the words of politicians who
criticize its economic, security and foreign policies.
Diana Moukalled is a prominent and well-respected
TV journalist in the Arab world thanks to her
phenomenal show Bil Ayn Al-Mojarada (By The Naked
Eye), a series of documentaries on controversial areas
and topics which airs on Lebanon's leading local and
satelite channel, Future Television. Diana also is a
veteran war correspondent, having covered both the
wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan, as well as the
Isreali "Grapes of Wrath" massacre in southern
Lebanon. Ms. Moukalled has gained world wide
recognition and was named one of the most influential
women in a special feature that ran in Time Magazine