9 December 2023
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For just under two weeks, protests against the hijab have spilled over onto the streets of Tehran, with women burning their hijabs and chopping off their hair. The protests, which have reportedly claimed at least 76 lives across Iran, have been directed against Iran’s infamous morality police and the country’s theocratic regime.

The flashpoint was the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini on September 16 after she was allegedly assaulted in custody for wearing her hijab “inappropriately”.

The word “inappropriate” is already detested for its unruly impositions on women’s lives. That apart, it is essential to recognise that the hijab – despite being a bone of contention in several parts of the world – has different implications in different settings.

For instance, it does not have the same meaning in Muslim-majority Islamic Republic of Iran as it does in Muslim-minority India. Specific historical and socio-political contexts are important when trying to understand the demonstrations by women in Iran who are demanding the removal of the law making the garment compulsory and the agitations in Karnataka where college students protested to be allowed into class wearing the veil.

Of course, the hijab may simply be considered an article of clothing and a sartorial choice. Yet, due to its…

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Abdul Gh Lone