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Leadfoot Ladies: Iran Debating Drivers’ Headscarves

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Women driving in Tehran, Iran

Women driving in Tehran
Photo: Kamyar Adl

Iran is one of the most conservative countries in the world, with women bearing the most weight in terms of regulations about how to dress, act, and generally live their lives. For instance, all women are required to wear a head covering, also known as a hijab, in public regardless of whether they are practicing Muslims or not. When they are in private spaces the rules are much more relaxed and women are allowed to remove headscarves. There is currently a debate in the country whether privately-owned cars are public or private spaces, as women have been removing their coverings while riding or driving.

Since cars are owned by individuals, many consider them to be private spaces. However, the large windows of cars mean that anyone can see into the cars. It seems as if rising temperatures in the Middle Eastern country are making removing hot headscarves in the car more of a trend among Iran’s more liberal women who do not wear them for a personal religious reason. Many laws pertaining to women are designed to keep them shielded from the male gaze, so the fact that these women can be seen without hijabs is what is causing the uproar and public debate.

It does not help that for some the hijab is a symbol of Iranian independence, as the government before the 1979 Islamic Revolution actually banned the religious garment to the consternation of more conservative men and the women that choose of their free will to wear the headscarf. Several of the clerics that are speaking out against the female drivers and passengers without the covering are saying that they do not support the government and are unpatriotic.

The president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has said on the record that he thinks that the police force should not have the power to enforce the tenets of Islam, and he is not in favor of the country’s notorious religious police (a separate group from the regular police). He was recently re-elected, which seems to show that Iran is moving forward with a more progressive future. Maybe one day soon this won’t be such a debate and women will not be required to cover their heads at all.

News Source: Los Angeles Times