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Hijab protests in Iran leads to call for a referendum

IRANIAN vice-president Ali Motahari has called for a referendum on the compulsory wearing of the hijab under pressure from women who have led growing protests across the country.

Mr Motahari — considered a “conservative maverick” and loose cannon by Islamist hardliners — said that he hoped “citizens vote to keep the law in force” if such a poll is initiated.

However campaigners have hit out at the suggestion of the deputy speaker of the Iranian parliament as it would give men the right to decide how women are allowed to dress.

Protests followed his remarks with women demanding an end to the compulsory wearing of the hijab without a vote. 

A video has gone viral of two women on a motorcycle without headdresses while others demonstrate and chant: “No headscarf, I am the leader, you are the leader! Let’s shout for freedom. Our basic rights about our bodies can’t be decided by others through a referendum.”

Footage of a group of women walking through a park in Tehran who tore off their headscarves together after dozens of arrests in 2018 was reposted by campaign group My Stealthy Freedom.

They warned that as “women got braver” and started practicing civil disobedience, then they also began to ask for religion to be separated from politics.

“That is why all the clerics and Islamic republic officials panicked,” the group said.

Wearing of the hijab became compulsory following the Iranian revolution of 1979 and is enforced by thousands of so-called morality police.

Those found guilty of noncompliance face a fine of up to 500,000 rials (£9.30) and two months in prison.

Last week a senior cleric warned that noncompliance with the hijab threatens the Islamic Republic.

However a movement against the mandatory headscarf has grown over the last few months amid widespread anti-government protests and strike action.

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