This post was written by Sara Khorshid Doost. You can read Part I here.
The reactions to Davoodi’s “de-jabbing” have not been as much as you’d expect. There are the usual suspects, those who praise Davoodi for the courage to free herself from the chains of the veil, some while expressing their general dislike for religion. Those who pity her, insult her, express their dismay and disbelief at a women who’s gone astray and has sunk so low.
Most prominent among these is a program broadcast on IRIB TV (the Iranian state TV channel) that is part of a series of exposés on reformists and activists that are part of the opposition (whom they refer to as “fitnah”)—particularly those who used to be active or close to the reformist government in Iran and have been forced into exile. These programs usually involve their private lives and contain dubious information.
In this program, Davoodi is portrayed as a hypocrite that observed hijab in Iran in order to grow politically, while actually not believing in it; a puppet in the hands of the Western powers. The scene of her taking the headscarf off during the Parazit interview is shown at the end of this piece, accompanied by music that is usually reserved for days of official mourning. One can feel the hegemony that Davoodi talks about in its extreme. (We have not included a translation, but the mourning scene begins at the end, at 3:37.)
It is well known that the issue of hijab is usually given much more attention than it deserves in Muslim communities. It all becomes much more sensitive and complicated in Iran, where mandatory hijab has been enforced for over thirty years. Many women have been and are humiliated and degraded in public by official “guardians of chastity” for not following what they consider Islamically acceptable at that moment, and many a woman has been looked down upon for wearing hijab in private. Thus, the issue is seldom approached constructively and objectively, due to the amount of personal emotions involved. This has been definitely reflected in the media’s over-coverage of Davoodi’s headscarf and her removal of it.
What I would have liked to hear from someone like Fariba Davoodi, who has decided to take such a personal matter into the media, was not a repetition of the clichés, while implicitly questioning all that do not follow her example and positioning herself as some sort of hero.
She could express her respect for and solitude with the women who are forced to wear hijab while still wearing it herself—removing her hijab in protest to those who cannot doesn’t do any good for other women who cannot remove theirs.
Instead, I would have liked to hear an honest and insightful account that addresses the realities and the experiences of an Iranian Muslim woman. I guess that’s too much to expect.