Iran Schoolgirls Join Protests Against Hijab: This Is A Movement Lead By Young Minds

If girls and boys have to leave their studies and walk the path of dissent then clearly spells out the failure of us adults to do the same.

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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The protests in Iran against the country's strict hijab rule are not showing any signs of slowing down. Recently, as many as 50 schoolgirls in Shiraz city removed their hijabs as a mark of dissent. The girls also heckled a member of Basij- a paramilitary volunteer militia in Iran, established in 1979 on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini, the country's first supreme leader.

The current wave of protests in Iran was sparked after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini on September 16. Amini had been visiting Tehran with her family when she was apprehended by the morality police of Iran, who accused her of wearing a hijab inappropriately. Shortly after being arrested by the morality police on 13 September, Amini was shifted to a hospital in critical condition. While the police alleged that she had suffered a seizure in custody, many witnesses came forward and claimed that the young woman was brutally assaulted while in custody, which reportedly led to her death three days later.

Thousands of women and men have taken to the streets across both cities and rural parts of Iran, clashing with the police and demanding an exit of Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader since 1989. Women have been burning hijabs, dancing on the streets, and chopping off their hair as a mark of protest against the regime that has robbed them of their agency.

However, it seems that the movement to push back against oppressive rules that mar the lives of women and girls in Iran has now reached schools. As seen in the video doing rounds on social media, schoolgirls from Shiraz can be seen chanting "death to dictator" and "Basij go get lost" during the protest.

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Iran schoolgirls join protests: How the young are leading dissent

This turn of events is significant because it brings the young adults in Iran to the forefront. Often, we trivialise the voices of young people, prioritising the opinion of those with age and experience on their side. However, times have changed and we no longer live in an era where age and experience along brought maturity to a person. Young voices deserve our attention as well, as we live in a world which will eventually belong to them. Our poor decisions, ignorance and inaction is jeopardising their future and thus they have every right to voice their concerns.

It is clear that girls in Iran are suffering due to the hijab rule. However, it is not easy for girls to raise voices against oppression and show a united front due to social norms that burden their daily existence. Let adults handle politics. Do as you are told. Be obedient and compliant, not resilient and defiant. But drastic times have thankfully called for drastic measures. These girls have broken free from oppressive norms and dared to challenge Basij.

Perhaps one of the reasons is that they know that the winds are flowing in a different direction now. The air in Iran is filled with rage, resentment and a call for change. Also, while older women and men are out on the streets, braving the crackdown of authorities, it is young women who have led Iranian protests from the front- be it the woman who cut her hair on her brother's funeral, or 17-year-old Nika Shakarami who lost her life during a protest rally. These young women are role models for the schoolgirls of Iran as they are fearlessly leading from the front, without a care about their own lives.

Having said that, one wonders if it should have ever come to this. If girls and boys have to leave their studies and walk the path of dissent then clearly it is a wake up call for society, and the world in general. It is a matter of shame for all of us adults that young people have to lead marches and raise voices against issues like climate change or regressive rules because the trigger has been our failure to do the same. However, it is not late, we can change the precedent even today. We can still raise a call to action and ensure that young people of the world do not have to worry about their future and can live a carefree childhood. The question is, do we have it in us to lead the change, or will young people have to inspire us?

The views expressed are the author's own.

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