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Iranian women's rights activist condemns Western feminists for wearing the hijab in 'solidarity', saying: 'Calling the compulsory headscarf my country's culture is INSULTING'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 02/04/2019 Tim Stickings For Mailonline

Masih Alinejad looking at the camera

© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited

A women's rights activist in Iran has said it is 'insulting' for Western visitors to wear the hijab in an attempt at solidarity. 

Masih Alinejad, who has spearheaded Iranian women's struggle against the head covering, said female dignitaries from Europe had left her fellow campaigners 'on their own' by choosing to wear the hijab when they visited Iran. 

Rejecting the argument that visitors should wear the hijab out of 'respect for the culture of Iran', she said they were 'sending a message that men are more equal than women'. 

Ms Alinejad, the founder of the White Wednesdays movement which saw many women remove their headscarves in protest, said she was battling against a 'discriminatory law'. 

She said: 'Iranian women, they fight against the compulsory hijab and they are alone, they are on their own.  

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'There were three female politicians from the Netherlands - they went to Iran the same day when one of the women of the White Wednesdays movement put her headscarf on a stick and waved it in public, she got arrested.

'The same day there were three female politicians from the Netherlands in Iran obeying compulsory hijab law without challenging it.

'The female politicians from Sweden - they were very well-known when they started to publish a picture to mock President Trump's Cabinet.

'I was like, I love this picture, it's a good way to criticise a male-dominated Cabinet.

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'But what happened, the same feminists went to Iran. The same ministers in Iran, they obeyed compulsory hijab laws in front of the President.

'I said to myself, when it comes to America, they are trying to say men and women are equal. But when it comes to [Iran] they are trying to send another message, that men are more equal than women.

'So the female politicians who go and visit Iran, the tourists, athletes, actresses - all of them, when they go to my beautiful country they say that this is a cultural issue, we wear it out of respect to the culture of Iran.

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'Let me be clear with you: calling a discriminatory law a part of our culture - this is an insult to a nation.'     

The issue was thrown into fresh focus last month when New Zealand women including PM Jacinda Ardern wore the headscarf in the wake of the Christchurch terror attack. 

The New Zealand women earned applause in some quarters but others voiced concern, saying it was not 'empowering' to wear the hijab. 

Ms Alinejad said she admired Ms Ardern's 'compassion' for the Muslim community but said it 'broke her heart' to see her wearing the hijab.

'I also felt that you are using one of the most visible symbols of oppression for Muslim women in many countries for solidarity,' she said.         

The Swedish picture she mentioned showed eight women at the signing of a climate change law, mocking a similar photo of Trump's male-heavy administration.  

Trade minister Ann Linde faced a backlash just weeks later when she wore a headscarf on a visit to Iran. 

Her 'My Stealthy Freedom' movement is fighting Iran's Islamic law, which requires women to wear a headscarf and long clothes that cover the arms and legs.

She also launched the social media hashtag White Wednesdays, encouraging women to flout regulations posting pictures and videos of themselves without the hijabs online on the third day of the week.

The Islamic dress code, in place since the 1979 revolution, considers veiling obligatory for any female above 13 in Iran and says they should cover themselves from head to toe while disavowing any figure-hugging dress.

Breaking the rules can result in fines of up to 500,000 rials (£17) and up to two months in prison.

Earlier this year Ms Alinejad shared footage which appeared to show Iranian an being sprayed in the face with tear gas after going outside without a hijab. 

Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in 2018 after launching a wide-scale crackdown on protests during what is being called 'a year of shame' for the country.

Students, journalists, environmental activists, factory workers, lawyers, women’s rights activists, minority rights activists and trade unionists were all cuffed during the campaign of repression, according to Amnesty International.  

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