Written by Kate DeAndre

During the reign of the shah in Iran, beginning in 1941, the shah imposed a strict and modest dress code for the citizens. Those who were the most affected by this change were the women of Iran. The women were forced to wear hijabs, or veils, over their heads because of a law that was created and enforced during the 1979 revolution.

When the revolution began, women were forced to wear the hijab in the presence of men as part of an Islamic dress code once they reached puberty. This modesty was supposed to keep women from sexually attracting men other than their husbands. Another garment women were required to wear a chador, Iranian cloak, to hide any shape or curves to their bodies. Article 139 of the Islamic Criminal Code stated, “Women who appear in the public thoroughfare without the Islamic covering will be subject to 10 days to two months imprisonment.” Being forced to cover their bodies stripped them of some of the freedom and independence of women, and if they did not abide by these laws, they would be punished with imprisonment.

At the beginning of the revolution, the country was divided into two sides: the revolutionaries and the shah supporters. Interestingly, many women didn’t view the hijab as a form of sexism; instead, they viewed wearing the veil as a way to defy the revolutionaries and show support to the shah. In contrast, the revolutionaries defined the hijab as a representation of the oppression of women’s rights.

Surprisingly, the revolutionary women chose to wear the chador and hijab during protests to show solidarity. Although the chadors and hijabs stripped women of freedom, women still managed to unify by wearing them. They found a way to put aside social class and any other issues they may have with one another, in order to come together as women to protest the shah’s actions. These articles of clothing made them feel equal among one another and helped them fight for their rights as a women being treated unjustly in Iran.

In the novel Persepolis, the protagonist Marjane Satrapi has a differing view of the interpretation and symbolism of the veil. Satrapi regards the veil as a factor dividing the community, not only into revolutionaries and shah supporters, but also between genders. The gender division is illustrated in the novel as the boys who were incorporated in Marjane’s class prior to the revolution are eventually separated from the girls in class. Stressing the significance of the hijab, Satrapi opens the novel with a chapter titled “The Veil.” In her opinion, many revolutionary women refused to wear the hijab to show they didn’t want to be victims of the sexism anymore. Coming from a family of revolutionaries, Marjane naturally takes after her family and decides that she is entitled to the same rights as a man.

In this chapter, Marjane also discovers that her purpose on Earth is to become the last prophet. In her imagination she tells the previous prophets of her ambition, yet they scoff and talk about how she is “only a girl.” Marjane refuses to let their opinion deter her and continues to tell others of her future as a prophet. Just as Marjane is suppressed by sexism and social limits, the women of the revolution were suppressed by a modest dress code, in particular the hijab. Suppressing women through dress was one way for the shah to attain total conformity from the people of Iran.

Works Cited Edit

"Covering Up With The Hijab May Aid Women's Body Image." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

"Covering Up With The Hijab May Aid Women's Body Image." NPR. NPR, n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2014.

"Iran 'Vigilante' Law to Test Rouhani on Women's Rights." VOA. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Dec. 2014.

N.p., n.d. Web.