Smear campaign: Iran reports fake rape of woman behind hijab-shedding campaign
In this undated image from the 'My Stealthy Freedom' Facebook page, a group of Iranian women shed headscarves in public.
Published Wednesday, June 11, 2014 10:01AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 11, 2014 11:17AM EDT
The creator of a popular Facebook page where women in Iran share photos of themselves without their compulsory hijabs has come under attack by Iranian state TV, which aired a false report alleging that she had been gang-raped in front of her son at a London subway station.
Exiled Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad created the "My Stealthy Freedom" Facebook page as a place where Iranian women could share photos of themselves without their hijabs and headscarves. Since the page was created in early May, it has garnered close to 500,000 likes, and has been covered extensively in the international media.
On the page, Alinejad posts photos that were sent to her from women in Iran without their headscarves. Accompanying the photos are often deeply personal accounts of womens' feelings about being forced to cover their hair in public.
After the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, it became illegal for women there to leave the house without covering their hair. The punishments for breaking the law range from small fines to detainment.
After the campaign started gaining international attention, Iranian conservative commentators and media outlets began attacking Alinejad.
A report on Iranian state TV claimed that she had been raped by three men in London in front of her son. She has also been called a "whore" by a popular TV presenter and conservative commentator.
Alinejad said the report about the rape is a complete fabrication, and is simply an attempt by her opponents to discredit her reputation, and the women participating in the "Stealthy Freedom" campaign.
A commentator suggested to the state-run Tasnim news agency that women who feel the desire to reveal their beauty were inviting unwanted sexual advances from men, even rape. According to the article, men could not be responsible for giving in to their urges, Alinejad said.
"According to their imagination, any women who do not believe in the hijab deserve to be raped," she told CTVNews.ca.
In response to the report and the attacks, she decided to strike back at her opponents by posting a video of herself at a London tube station singing a famous song about freedom to YouTube.
She is also considering taking legal action in Iran, even though she is not optimistic about the outcome.
"I know that there is no justice in Iranian judiciary, I know that," she said, suggesting the case would show the government is “not protecting their own people."
Photos still pouring in
But despite the false TV report and other media attacks on her and the campaign, Iranian women are still sending Alinejad photos for the "Stealthy Freedoms" Facebook page, she said.
Alinejad said she warns women about the risks that come with participating in the campaign, but those who have are adamant that she carry on.
"They insist on getting published on the page, because they want to be heard. They know that this is dangerous for them, but this is the only way that they can speak out and send a message to their own government," she said.
She said that she has considered shuttering the page several times out of fear for her relatives still in Iran, but has decided to keep it up for her supporters who believe in the campaign's message.
Following the report of the alleged rape, a Facebook page was created on Alinejad's behalf, calling on Iranian national TV to issue an apology.
Her supporters have also started sharing photos from the "Stealthy Freedoms" Facebook page, with notes encouraging her to keep going, Alinejad said.
She maintains that she is not encouraging Iranian women to do anything, she is simply reporting on the feelings that exist inside the country.
"I am reporting about the women who live in Iran and my plan is to listen to them," she said. "I don't know how long I can tolerate these attacks, but my plan is to listen to these women. I am following these women, these women are not following me."
She also says that she is not against the hijab -- members of her own family chose to wear it – but believes it should be up to each individual woman to make that decision for themselves.
In fact some of her favourite photos that she receives are from women who wear the hijab, but believe it should not be mandatory.
"These women shouldn't be attacked by the government, they should be heard," she said.
One of the photos recently submitted to Alinejad expresses this same sentiment. In the photo, a young woman stands in front of the camera holding a long pink scarf in her hand with a cityscape behind her.
"To put it in a nutshell, I want the right to choose," the translated caption says.