Female motorists are using a grey area to protest the nation’s compulsory dress code.
Is the inside of a vehicle a private or public space?
That’s the focus of current debate in Iran, as a growing number of women are choosing to abandon the nation’s compulsory hijab when in their vehicles.
Women in Iran have been legally bound to cover their hair in public since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. It is a rule enforced by the country’s Morality Police, who fine or even jail women found to be breaching the law.
Even donning “bad hijab”, where women wearing a headscarf have allowed a little hair to show above their forehead, can incur repercussions.
However in the privacy of their own homes, women are allowed to leave their hair uncovered – and many female motorists are using the grey area surrounding what constitutes a private space to protest the compulsory dress code, The Guardian reports.
According to the newspaper’s Iran correspondent, “observers in Tehran say women who drive with their headscarves resting on their shoulders are becoming a familiar sight”.
Women who flaunt the rules – even in their cars – can be stopped and fined by police, or even have their vehicle seized.
“The invisible part of the car, such as the trunk, is a private space, but this does not apply to the visible parts of the car,” said Hadi Sadeghi, the deputy head of Iran’s judiciary chief, according to the Guardian.
Saeid Montazeralmahdi, a spokesperson for the Iranian police, agreed, adding: “What is visible to the public eye is not private space and norms and the rules should be respected within cars.”
However debate has raged on in the local media, with lawyers and politicians coming down on the private side of the argument
Lawyer Hossein Ahmadiniaz told state news agency Irna: “The law says that the space within a car is a private space.
“The government’s citizen’s rights charter [launched by President Hassan Rouhani in 2016] also considers a car to be a private space and it is incumbent upon enforcers to respect that.”
Member of parliament Yahya Kamalpour also agreed a car is “a private space and the police has no right to enter that space without a judicial order”, the Guardian reported.
The debate comes just weeks after women from the Middle Eastern nation started to wear white headscarves in protest of the dress code.
The online campaign, which uses the hashtag #whitewednesdays, invites women to demonstrate their opposition by wearing the colour of peace on Wednesdays.
It’s the brainchild of My Stealthy Freedom, a social movement started by journalist Masih Alinejad that promotes the right to freedom of choice.
In many other Middle Eastern countries, such as the UAE, the hijab is wore with pride by Muslim women but they face no legal obligations should they choose not to wear it.