Iran's Green Movement has embraced a new symbol of protest: the woman's veil. In an unprecedented show of support for women's rights, Iranian men have posted photos of themselves wearing the head covering typically worn by Muslim women. The images show hundreds of men clad in bright green headscarves posing mockingly for the camera.
This campaign was sparked by the government's attempt to humiliate leading student activist Majid Tavakoli. Authorities arrested Tavakoli after he delivered a fiery anti-government speech during Iran's Student Day demonstrations on December 7th. Following his detention, the semi-official Fars News Agency published photos of him wearing a woman's veil, claiming that he had been found trying to escape from campus using it as a disguise. Many members of the opposition believe the photos were fabricated to discredit and disgrace the young activist.
Once again, Iran's young and tech savvy opposition has cleverly utilized new media to bypass government censorship and laugh in the face of authority. The online campaign highlights the absurdity of the regime's attempts at character defamation. A similar strategy was used after the government subjected hundreds of reformers to show trials following the disputed June election. People posted YouTube videos of themselves confessing to the most ridiculous things in order to show how baseless and empty the government's forced confessions and accusations against its critics have become. By co-opting the government's own tools of repression, the opposition has rendered such tactics ineffectual.
Given the politically fraught history of the veil, this campaign is deeply symbolic. In 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi banned women from wearing a head covering in public in an attempt to move Iran away from what he considered religious backwardness and toward modernity. Prior to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, there was a revival of social traditionalism and women would don the veil to reaffirm their Iranian-Islamic identity against the perceived onslaught of Western influence. Today, young women flout Islamic dress codes by exposing their hair from under colorful headscarves in mass defiance of the Islamic Republic.