Iranian women resisted suppression by Reza Khan's regime

Iranian women resisted suppression by Reza Khan's regime

The forceful removing of hijab (Islamic code of dress for women) in Iran signified a special part of the contemporary Iranian history under the rule of Reza Shah Pahlavi during which Iranian women and girls were banned from wearing hijab including various kinds of chador, veil, and headscarf.

Following his foreign trip to Turkey on June 2, 1934, Reza Shah was greatly influenced by the Western-minded leader of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. At that time, more rumors circulated among the people about a possible ban on hijab in girls’ schools, though no law was passed to that effect.

During late December 1928, the National Consultative Assembly passed a law requiring uniform clothes to be worn by the Iranian men. Pursuant to that law, wearing suit in addition to European ties and hats became mandatory for the Iranian men.

This is why historians consider the uniform dress law as the first practical step taken by Reza Shah’s regime in its effort to prohibit the Islamic dress as worn by the Muslim Iranian women.

The original masterminds and promoters of the removal of hijab were well aware that to officialize this phenomenon they had to first provide suitable grounds inside the Iranian families. From their viewpoint, opposition of the Iranian men to the appearance of their wives on the streets and in public without hijab was the main reason behind slow pace of removing hijab in the Iranian society.

As a first step, they started with the civil servants who were under rigid control of the government and on whom the state swayed more power. On the other hand, accepting this change of style by them would have paved the ground for other social classes to do the same.

Another step taken by Reza Shah to promote removal of the women’s hijab was holding the Congress of Women of the East in the capital city, Tehran, in 1932, to which a great number of women without hijab from other countries had been invited. During the congress, which was headed by Reza Shah’s daughter, Shams Pahlavi, the lack of hijab was mentioned as a sign of civilization and huge propaganda hype was launched around it. 

Taking advantage of educational schools to promote lack of hijab and establishing modern schools after the European model were other measures taken to fight hijab under Reza Shah. Although similar schools had been established under Nassereddin Shah, the Qajar king, it was Reza Shah who promoted development of such schools as a means of removing hijab.

Removing hijab became mandatory toward the end of Reza Shah’s rule and the Islamic hijab was considered reactionary. As a result, removing women’s covers by force had become part of routine duties of the Reza Khan police.

The Palavi reign ended after the victory of Islamic Revolution in 1979 under the wise leadership of Imam Khomeini.

Commenting on the corruption by the Pahlavi regime, Imam on different occasions said as following: 

Probably you may not remember, in the name of unity and removing chādor, how much they coerced and how many fetuses were aborted owing to the harassment…  ( Sahifeh-ye-Imam, Vol.10, page 346)

 Before the tāghūtī regime, Qājār ruled the country; they were also corrupt but not so much as these people. These father and son beat the record of corruption! (Sahifeh-ye-Imam, Vol.10, page 134)

 We cannot simply believe that these vicious tasks were initiated and being carried out by Reza Khan himself.  This mindset was actually being ordered and convey to him by some tricky and sharp-minded entities. The success of such plots was spoiling the country.  (Excerpts from Imam’s book “revealing the secrets, P. 189)

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