Right to choose
First protests against mandatory hijab
Compiled by Pedram Missaghi
March 7, 2000
After the fall of the Pahlavi regime in February 1979, Iran's
religious leaders imposed strict rules on women's clothing in
public. The following is a chronology of women's protests in
the early days. From In the Shadow
of Islam by Azar Tabari and Nahid Yeganeh. See photos here. Also see video at Rahai-Zan TV.
10-11 Feb 1979
Overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtias and establishment
of the first Islamic government administration under the premiership of Mehdi
26 Feb. 1979
Family Protection Law suspended by a letter issued by the Office of Ayatollah
Khomeini. A Government spokesman later stated that the old law would remain
in effect until new legislation was drafted.
3 March 1979
Issuing of decrees appointing women as judges was stopped. Qualified women
were told to apply for administrative posts in the judiciary.
4 March 1979
Khomeini, in a speech addressed to thousands of women who had gone to Qom to
pay him respect, said that in Islam the right to divorce is the prerogative
of the husband, but women could specify in the marriage contract that in
case of maltreatment by the husband they are entitled to divorce themselves.
6 March 1979
Minister of Defense, General Madani, declared that women would not be drafted
into the army in future. All women serving their conscription terms were
dismissed and released from military service.
7 March 1979
During a speech addressed to thousands of visitors in Qom, Khomeini said that
women were not prohibited from taking jobs, but that they must wear the Islamic
veil at work
8 Mach 1979
Mass demonstration of women to celebrate International Women's Day, and to
protest against Khomeini's statement regarding the veil. From early hours
of the morning meetings were held in girl's high schools and in Tehran University.
Marches, spontaneously decided upon in such meetings, got on their way during
the day , some converging on Tehran University, others going to the Office
of the Prime Minister Bazargan, others heading for the Ministry of Justice.
Some of the slogans of the demonstrators were: 'Freedom in our culture; to
stay at home is our shame' 'Liberty and equality are our undeniable rights'
' We will fight against compulsory veil; down with dictatorship' ' In the
dawn of freedom, we already lack freedom' 'Women's Day of Emancipation is
neither Western, nor Eastern, it is international' 'Freedom does not take
rules and regulations".
In several incidents women demonstrators were physically attacked
on the streets. Revolutionary Guards fired in the air to disperse
women demonstrators, estimated by the press at 15,000, from the
streets around the Prime Minister's office. Many meetings, planned
in advance by various women's groups on the occasion of International
WOmen's Day, were held throughout the day, each drawing an audience
of several thousands.
9 March 1979
Segregation of sports was proposed. Women were subsequently barred from international
sports on the grounds that coaches, judges, spectators, etc. in such events
10 March 1979
Further demonstrations and sit-ins against imposition of the veil. A mass meeting
of women held at the Ministry of Justice. The meeting was attacked by hard-liners
and women were beaten by armed men. 10 March 1979: Demonstration of women
in front of the National Television, protesting against the news black-out
of their demonstration and activities. Prime Minister Bazargan announced
that wearing the veil is not compulsory and that Imam Khomeini's statement
had been misunderstood.
11 March 1979
Even though, following Bazargan's statement, some of the women's organizations
withdrew their support for the demonstration planned for this day, some 20,000
women attended the rally in Tehran University. After several speeches, women
marched towards Azadi Square. Along the route the march drew support from
offices, hospitals and schools. It was attacked at several points by Muslim
fanatics, men and women. The final rally had to be abandoned because of the
increasing number of fanatics encircling the rally point.
21 May 1979
Ministry of Education banned co-education. All educational institutions were
ordered to segregate all classes. Many institutions indicated that since
the number of female students alone would not justify setting up separate
classes they could be unable to register any female students. In late September,
when schools opened, female students of technical training schools staged
a protest against de facto suspension of their studies as a result of this
decision. They were told to change their courses of training to fields where
there were enough female students to justify separate training courses.
3 June 1979
The Ministry of Education banned married women from attending ordinary high
schools. They were told they should continue studies on their won and take
part in special examinations in order to obtain final degrees. Coupled with
the lowering minimum age for marriage of women to 13 years, this would mean
an increase, over the coming years, in lower educational levels for women.
13 June 1979
All the day-care and nursery centers at work-places were closed and women with
children were encouraged to quit their jobs and stay at home. The women employees
of the Communication Corporation were threatened with mass lay-off.
8 July 1979
Several Caspian Sea resort towns initiated a sexual 'segregation' of the sea.
Many women were flogged in public during the summer of 1979 on charges of
swimming in the men's section.