Battle Over the Hijab

Photo by Tirazh Art Group on

They sit across a table in the interrogation room of the detention center.
She is Nasrin, a beautiful woman, 31, with expressive eyes and lustrous, shoulder length black hair.
She is not wearing her headscarf.
She was apprehended earlier in the day as she walked in a business section of Teheran without her hijab.
The policeman who had detained her had written a short note which lay on the table along with her identifying information.
The security officer, a wiry man in his mid thirties, nodded to himself as he read the note. Then, aloud to Nasrin…

Officer – ‘Woman ignored my call for her to stop and instead walked faster. Another policeman that was ahead of us saw me chasing her and he blocked her path and we both detained her. Arrogant. Stubborn.’

The officer looks at Nasrin directly.

Officer – Why?
Nasrin – Because it’s my body and it belongs to me and no one else.
Officer – But you are Muslim…
Nasrin – So far.
Officer – You want to change your religion?
Nasrin – Ha! I’m well aware that if I tried that I would be guilty of apostasy, punishable by life imprisonment or death.
Officer – Yes… we are who we are… and our rules come from the prophet who heard them from Allah. So… how is Islam making you unhappy?
Nasrin – Those rules were made by men, at a time when women were subservient. The world has changed and Islam should change with it.
Officer – Have you read the Qur’an?
Nasrin – It needs to be updated.
Officer (irritated) – Nasrin… please… I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Have you been to the West?
Nasrin – I haven’t. Not yet. But I plan to.
Officer – I see. What do you think the purpose of wearing hijab is?
Nasrin – To keep women down.
Officer – You are stubborn. I’m trying to help you but you’re not letting me. All you have to do is agree with the law and you can walk out. Why make life difficult for you?
Do you want me to send you to a tribunal of clerics so they can decide what punishment to give you?
Nasrin – Do you know what the real purpose of the hijab is?
Officer – Please be careful with your words because I don’t want to send you to detention.
Nasrin – The hijab is meant to protect men from their insecurities.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – A beautiful woman will attract other men’s attention and you can’t handle that…

Annoyed, the officer sits back.

Nasrin – … So you cover us up… but it’s up to us if we want to stay with the men in our lives… or go elsewhere… or simply be with no man… or woman. Our sexuality is ours… ours to share it with whom we want. That’s why this theocracy we live under is obsolete.
And the protests you’re seeing are about that. About the freedom of our bodies and the freedom of our minds.
We own our bodies and minds, not the clerics, not the ayatollahs, not the police, not you.
We give birth to men and women… if we stopped giving birth… if we refused to have you in our bodies… there would be no more Iran… that is our power. Now our work is to claim it, to affirm it.
Officer – Have you ever been married?
Nasrin – Not yet. Maybe I never will.
Officer – You don’t want to have children?
Nasrin – I don’t have to be married for that. My freedom is more important than anything else. And we, Persian women, are learning that. And it appears incompatible with living under this regime.
Officer – I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that.
Nasrin – Do you have daughters?
Officer – Yes, I do.
Nasrin – Don’t you want them to be free?

The officer leans forward, looks down at the ground.

Nasrin – When we get our freedom, which we will, men will discover freedoms of their own that they didn’t know were possible.
Officer – What?
Nasrin – Your keeping us so controlled, keep you from becoming better men.

The officer looks straight at Nasrin, the expression stern. But then, to her surprise, he breaks into a chuckle as his eyes soften.

Officer – You’re going to put your hijab back on and you’re going to walk with me out of this place. We will walk two blocks, with you wearing your hijab. Then you will go your own way.
And if I ever see you again… I will ask you to share a meal with me.
Now, put your hijab back on and let’s walk out.

Nasrin does so, and the two walk out of the detention center. The guards at the entrance bow respectfully to the officer as he and Nasrin go by.