In the city of Kerman, Iranian women took to the streets on Tuesday night to express their outrage over the unjust manner in which the 22-year-old Masha Amini was killed after being taken to the detention center by the Iranian morality police. One of the women can be seen in a video circulating online where she cuts her ponytail with no hijab in sight in the presence of protestors and raises her fist in the air. This gesture is in response to how the Iranian morality police have imposed a strict regime towards treating women who are not conforming to the enforcement of the Hijab and robes as compulsory. Why are Iranian Women Protesting? After video footage was released by the Iranian police showing Amini collapsing, the 22-year-old’s father expressed they had no family history of heart-related issues. In fact, when the father Amjad Amini inquired about video access after she was aggressively placed inside a police car, the police refused to comment. After the hijab law was enforced in Iran in 1981, the morality police have adopted various techniques over the years against women who do not practice this law including dragging them in police vans for detention, imposing heavy fines, to regulating verbal notices. However, Amini faced barbaric treatment at the hands of the officers as her brother claims he heard violent screams while he was waiting for her sister outside the detention center. After she was taken to the hospital, she survived on machines until she passed away just hours after her arrest. How the Iranian Government Infiltrated Women’s Bodily Rights Under the Shi’a Islamic Law imposed in Iran, wearing the veil is compulsory. Under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from 2005 to 2013, the dress code for females became more strict with the intent to bring back the values of the revolution. When the fifth president of Iran, Seyed Mohammad Khatami was in the picture, women could loosely wear a hijab covering their head with no compulsion on covering their hair entirely. Jackets could be worn reaching their knees instead of their ankles. In 2011, a rift between President Ahmadinejad and the Shiite clerics led to increased hostility towards women. The President, in pursuit of bringing forward a cultural educational attempt concerning the dress code, meant teaching young Iranian girls and women how to cover themselves. One of the clerics Ahmad Khatami responded, “Blood should be shed to solve this issue and eradicate this problem from society”. In response to the women who received inhuman treatment for walking without headscarves, many stood actively for their right to speak for their bodies in the face of governmental tactics for authority. A History of Secluding Female Struggles through Justice and Art One of the first female judges in Iran, Shirin Ebadi spoke openly against the bill on women’s rights which discriminates by intermingling religion with human rights. According to Ebadi’s statement, Islam has been misinterpreted for political gain. In reality, Islam respects and promotes individual rights. Before her Nobel Prize-winning speech in October 2003, Ebadi shared in her interview with AFP her decision to not wear a headscarf because Iranian women should have the right to decide for themselves. The government of Iran responded to Ebadi’s acknowledgment in terms of promoting women and human rights in Iran by suspending her bank accounts and pension payments, and also blocked access to her safety box containing her Nobel Prize. Upon her arrival in Iran, members of the Parliament welcomed her, except for Khatami, who only recognized scientific and literary prizes when it came to the Nobel Peace Prize, not humanitarian efforts. Shirin Neshat, an Iranian visual artist, uses photography and video installations as a medium for narrating the experiences of women. One of her works titled Secret of the Veil looks at how an artist translates living with two cultures as Neshat moved to California 17 years after her birth in Iran in 1957. Using art, Neshat reclaimed the Iranian woman’s experience and her relationship with veiling perceived in the West. A Muslim woman’s choice to veil does not equate to being submissive or voiceless. She can be fearless, sexually liberated, and educated even when she chooses to cover herself. This is because her headscarf or her choice of clothing is disconnected from her religious beliefs. Contrary to the Western view that veiling is a means of oppression in Islam, Iranian women who willingly cover themselves use it to mobilize freely outside their homes so they can rid themselves of being sexualized. Political Agency and Western Perception on Veiling It can be distinguished from the efforts by Iranian women and the government’s attitude towards the protection of women’s rights that the true purpose behind veiling has been smeared with political agenda and Western outlook. If one observes the Iranian governmental efforts to practice women to secure bodily autonomy, it is filled with upsetting incidents of women like Amini tortured for not conforming to the ideological framing of the hijab in Iran. When women are killed for protesting for their basic rights, it is a clear indication of the state’s agenda to silence the marginalized for choosing simply whether or not to put a piece of cloth on their heads or bodies. Sarosh Ibrahim is an MPhil graduate in English. She tweets: @saroshibrahim.