What is the relationship between women, the veil, and the Iranian state?
Muslim women in Iran have historically had their ability to choose whether or not to wear the veil, or hijab, limited by the Iranian state. Reza Shah Pahlavi, in an attempt to modernize (or, as some argue, westernize) Iran, banned the veil for women in 1936. This ruling was met with protests throughout Iran, because many women chose to wear the hijab for religious or traditional cultural reasons. After many protests organized by Iranian women, the ban was lifted in 1941. However, this was not the last time the hijab became subject to state sanctioning. Shortly after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, the new leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini decreed that women must wear the chador in public. The chador covers the entire body, unlike the hijab, which only covers the hair, neck, and chest. This ruling was also met with demonstrations led by women throughout the country. Today, enforcement of the law is less strict; many women wear the hijab rather than the chador, and foreign women traveling in Iran are not required to wear the veil. However, the veil is still mandated by state law, and women continue to demonstrate against it.