For women in Iran, walking in public with their hair uncovered can be an act of protest.
The women who don’t comply with the country’s 1979 compulsory hijab law can face fines or jail time for the brazen act. And yet, a wave of hijab protests since January have shown women openly defying the law, filming public acts of unveiling that have been widely shared online. In response, the government has arrested at least 29 women; one has already been sentenced to two years in prison.
As the Iranian women forge ahead, their acts of civil disobedience have been amplified by two social media accounts curated by Masih Alinejad, a Brooklyn-based Iranian activist and journalist living in exile. Her personal Instagram and “Stealthy Freedom” Facebook pages are the source of a host of civil disobedience campaigns, including #WhiteWednesdays, where women take off their headscarves and wave them.
The encrypted messaging app Telegram, also popular in Iran, is currently the app of choice for Iranian women joining the hijab protests. Though it was recently restricted, joining Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, on a list of banned social media sites used to mobilize anti-government protests, the women are still bypassing internet censors to post their hijab-less images.
VICE News spoke to Masih Alinejad about how the online protest movement gained momentum — and where it’s going from here.