Stay In The Fight
Femina|March 09, 2019

Iranian journalist and author Masih Alinejad’s fight is far from won, but is on the right track. The activist, who is spearheading the campaign against the compulsory wearing of the hijab, talks to Nikita Sawant about why she stopped wearing a hijab, her brand of activism, and her memoir

Nikita Sawant

This is the story of a woman who beat all odds for something she believed in. The thing Masih Alinejad believed in—not having to wear a hijab against your will—gave birth to a revolution of epic proportions. So much so that she has faced arrest; was exiled from her country; received death threats; and was confronted with an unending smear campaign. She started a social media movement when she posted a photo of herself without a veil on Facebook. Before she knew it, ‘My Stealthy Freedom’ came into existence, and she had garnered over a million supporters across the world and inspired Islamic women everywhere to fight for their basic human rights. Last year, Alinejad started White Wednesdays, where she called upon Iranian women to wear a white hijab on Wednesdays as a form of protest against the compulsory hijab. Over to the iconoclast:

You started wearing a hijab when you were seven. How many years did you wear it for?

I wore it until I left Iran, in 2009. That is from the age of seven until I was 36. Moreover, since my family was conservative, I had to wear it even when at home in front of my father. The sad thing is that even after moving to the UK, where there were no legal powers that could compel me to wear a hijab, I wore a hat to cover my hair every time I went outside. It took two years for my mind to completely break free.

What triggered your decision to stop wearing it?

I hated to be forced to wear the hijab even in Iran, and I’d indulge in stealthy moments of removing my hijab and enjoy the feeling of the wind caressing my hair. When I was living in exile in the UK due to my activism, I wore the hat as my own version of the hijab, because I was brainwashed to think that my virtue was bound to how well I was covered. I knew my moral virtue had nothing to do with the hijab, but it took me two years to be brave.

In what ways are young girls conditioned into wearing the hijab, and what happens if they refuse it?

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