Commentary. The news coming to us from Tehran shows that the veil is not a mere detail, but the symbol of the oppression of women and denial of all human rights.

Alessia, Iranian women and the symbol of oppression

Alessia Piperno must be freed. The Italian authorities must enforce respect for human rights, at least for Italian citizens, although it would be better to also give the Iranians the opportunity to express their wishes.

We respect Alessia’s family’s call for silence about her case in order to facilitate the work of the authorities. However, we cannot refrain from condemning the misguided – and in some cases hateful – messages circulating on social media. When a woman suffers through a dramatic experience, it is always said that she brought it on herself. Now, as in the past, it seems that the biggest concern of Italians is that no money should be spent to ransom Alessia. Let me set things straight: the issue here is not money but universal rights, which are the rights of women all over the world.

Alessia is locked up in the infamous Evin prison, where a number of women have been and continue to be jailed as political prisoners, subjected to violence just like the ordinary prisoners. So there is an urgent need to intervene, not only for Alessia, but also to turn the spotlight on the situation of women who are only guilty of demanding respect for human rights.

And in this regard, the initiative of feminists and Muslim women living in the West that calls on women who wear veils to not wear them for one day and send a lock of their hair to Iran seems inappropriate. It’s the opposite of what they do on February 1, Hijab day. Nowadays, the choice to wear the hijab is accepted even in fashion magazines or on the runways of major fashion shows. What is the problem if you earn your living wearing the veil, as long as no one forces you to do so?

Send a lock of hair, yes – but the veil shouldn’t be involved. The cultural relativism that is rampant in the West is making a thorough understanding of the struggle of Iranian women difficult, and while newspapers are giving prominence to the demonstrations in Iran, they are also interviewing veiled women convinced that their choice is a choice of freedom. It’s striking that the European Commission, in its campaign for women’s education, chose the image of a little girl wearing the veil – at an age when it wouldn’t even be appropriate! Perhaps they were simply being overzealous. But who were they eager to placate? Those who consider the veil a religious obligation – although not found in the Koran – or simply a piece of cloth that is required only for women in order to mark their identity, according to Ayatollah Khomeini.

The news coming to us from Tehran shows that the veil is not a mere detail, but the symbol of the oppression of women and denial of all human rights. So much so that citizens of all ages are following the women in their demonstrations, demanding an end to the theocratic regime. “Do not underestimate the hijab, because this time it can trigger a revolution. After almost half a century, Iranians have realized that it is not just a headscarf, but a humiliation repeated generation after generation: the hijab is the emblem of all the human rights violations perpetrated by the government of the Islamic Republic against women and the entire people,” an Iranian activist wrote in La Stampa in recent days.

It’s rightly called a revolution because this uprising is interclass: it’s not only students, or only women, as in the past, but all Iranians are in the streets risking their lives. The wearing of the headscarf also comes with the requirement for behavior appropriate to the canons of a fundamentalist version of Islam that denies women’s rights. Afghan women know this well – now forgotten by the media a year after the Taliban’s return to power – and these days they have also taken to the streets in solidarity with their Iranian sisters, defying the bullets of those devoted to “the prevention of vice and promotion of virtue.”

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