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My Stealthy Freedom
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Iranian women are dressing like men to avoid morality police

Amid a cultural war, women are cutting off their hair and dressing like men to evade government-enforced penalties for not covering their hair with hijabs

Iranian women are cutting their hair and dressing as men to avoid government-enforced penalties for not wearing a hijab.

In April, police chief general Hossein Sajedinia announced that 7,000 plainclothes division officers were sent out to oversee the legally enforced Islamic dress code, as part of the country’s largest undercover assignment ever. It’s been illegal for women to be out in public without a hijab since 1979.

Women on social media have shared photos of themselves with their hair cut short, dressed in traditional men’s clothing in public. It highlights the lengths some women in the country have gone to in their challenge against imposing traditionalist ideals. One woman’s Instagram showed her driving in her car with short hair, without a hijab. Another image captured a woman with short hair, in a shirt and jeans to share on the Facebook page My Stealthy Freedom. The caption said: “I am an Iranian girl. In order to avoid the morality police, I decided to cut my hair short and wear men's clothes so that I can freely walk in the streets in Iran.”

My Stealthy Freedom highlights the women’s campaign, sharing images of women with uncovered hair and examples of ‘morality’ police fining those not wearing a hijab. The page is run by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist based in New York.

“Some girls in Iran would rather secretly dress as men to avoid the compulsory hijab and the morality police,” Alinejad told the Independent. “So that is why they make their hair short in order to look like a boy and dress like a boy. “It shows that although the Government arrests women who post their photos without headscarves, women are not afraid and they are following their own lifestyle.

“The Government wants to create fear but women have found their own way to freely walk in the streets of Iran or drive without covering their heads. It is a serious cultural war between two lifestyles. For women, their hair is their identity and making it short to just avoid the morality police is really heartbreaking, but in a way, it is brave.

“The head scarf issue often features prominently in the constant tug of war between hard-liners and Iran’s youth society. Iran’s laws require that all women, from the age of seven when they start school, cover their hair out of a traditional respect for culture and morality. But so far, Iranian women are brave to break this discriminatory law.”

This is all part of a continued campaign to crack down on what the government sees as Western influence and a challenge to the country’s Islamic values. Last week, eight women supposedly involved in online modeling agencies were arrested and tried by Tehran’s cybercrimes court prosecutor. Evidence on Instagram showed the models with uncovered hair, in what the court ruled as “un-Islamic”.

A BBC News report said approximately 170 people had been reprimanded in an investigation by the government, accused of “making and spreading immoral and un-Islamic culture and promiscuity” through social media sites such as Instagram. The number includes 59 photographers, 58 models and 51 salon managers and designers. 29 of those accused could stand trial under the “Spider II” investigation.