Iranian Police Arrest 29 Women for Participation in Anti-Hijab Protests

An Iranian woman raises her fist amid the smoke of tear gas at the University of Tehran during a protest driven by anger over economic problems / Getty Images
An Iranian woman raises her fist amid the smoke of tear gas at the University of Tehran during a protest driven by anger over economic problems / Getty Images

Iranian police have arrested 29 women in Tehran for removing their headscarves in protest against the country’s strict Islamic dress code.

The women were charged with public order offenses and referred to the state prosecutor’s office, according to Iranian media. Police in Tehran said those arrested were being "deceived" by foreign forces inciting the demonstration through illegal satellite channels, the Guardian reported.

Women across Iran have been climbing atop utility boxes, stripping off their headscarves, and defiantly waving them overhead on sticks in a nationwide movement called "White Wednesday," according to videos and photos posted to social media.

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Iranian Islamic law, implemented after the 1979 revolution, requires women to cover their hair with a scarf and wear long, loose-fitting clothing. Though once strictly enforced through public admonishments, arrests, and fines, punishment has been less common since President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013.

Iran’s chief prosecutor called the protests "childish," "trivial," and prompted by actors "from outside the country."

Masih Alinejad, a U.S.-based Iranian activist, first posted to social media in May 2017 to encourage women to wear white headscarves or remove them entirely in defiance of the law.

Alinejad rejected government claims that the protests emanated from outside of the country.

"This is a campaign that's been going on for years and years," she told CNN. "The women of Iran have long been ignored. We're just giving them a platform."

The Iranian government has faced amplified criticism recently, with citizens taking to the streets en masse last month in public protest of the country’s stagnant economy, rising fuel and food prices, and corruption.