This paper examples new epistemological and historical perspectives surrounding the contested discourse of the “mandatory hijab’, as the core cause of Women. Life. Freedom., the revolutionary movement in Iran. One of the primary causes of this movement rests in the multi-dimensional mechanism through which the hejab was mandated by the Islamic Republic, going far beyond institutionalized patriarchy. Cultural patriarchy, deep-rooted in the post-Islamic era, also perpetuated the obligatory hejab and its physical and psychological effects after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Within cultural patriarchy, one can see not only the role of paternal and fraternal patriarchy but also socio-cultural patriarchy. Individuals, extending beyond fathers, husbands, and brothers, believe themselves to be judges and juries of society, responsible for protecting individuals, especially women, should the familia patriarchs be absent. Reflections of this patriarchy are exampled when the supreme leader of the Islamic regime, Ali Khamenei, used Atash be ekhtiyar on January 7, 2017, to encourage his followers to warn, threaten, and even punish people who go beyond defined religious rules. Thus, it is important to examine a multifaceted approach towards the obligatory hejab, not just in terms of a hyper-visible piece of cloth but as a barometer of politics. A means to protect, control, and polarize society into a divided population of veiled and unveiled women. This paper argues that using the politics of gender and lasting cultural patriarchy led to not only fear, torture, and even death of Iranian citizens but also to the exacerbating dehumanization of women and the terrorization of their identities, consequently arousing the current Woman. Life. Freedom. Movement.
To understand the root causes of this revolutionary movement, this paper first focuses on the historical background of socio-cultural patriarchy since the mid-nineteenth century when the discourse began of the ‘compulsion’ pertinent to women’s (un)veiling proposed by Qorrat ol-Eyn (1817-1852). She was the first figure who opposed veiling and perceived it as a religious ‘obligation’ and a trap, thus challenging individuals’ perception of veiling. After the Constitutional Revolution (1906-1911), the strictness of veiling lessened, which prompted both female and male activists to step forward and begin influencing cultural patriarchy. However, the endeavors were not enough to make women’s liberation possible, and the injustice persisted and strengthened after the 1979 Revolution by the creation of IRGC, Besij, and plainclothesmen. Iranian women’s defiance today is not just against the mandatory hijab but also against sociocultural and psychological persecution.