Human Rights

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WATCH: Iranian Women Defy Supreme Leader’s Fatwa Against Bicycling

Iranian women have taken to social media to protest and defy a recently issued fatwa by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which bans females from riding bicycles because the activity ostensibly endangers their “chastity” and “exposes society to corruption,” The Independent reported on Tuesday.

Women participating in the My Stealthy Freedom social media movement are protesting against discriminatory laws in Iran, including those that force women to wear the Muslim head covering known as the hijab. A mother and daughter who are defying the ban are featured in the video embedded above.

In announcing the fatwa, Khamenei said, “Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity.” Earlier in September, he said that a woman’s role in society should be limited to “motherhood and housekeeping.”

Already in May, street signs were posted with the warning: “bicycle riding for women is prohibited.” In July, a group of women were arrested for cycling and forced to promise that they would not violate the law again.

A report issued by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office in July observed that the human rights situation in Iran “worsened, despite President Rouhani pledging to improve the rights and freedoms of the citizens of Iran when he was elected.” The report noted that a couple of bills being considered by Iran’s parliament are set to further erode women’s rights:

Two proposed bills which were making their way through the Iranian parliament in 2015 caused outrage both inside and outside Iran. Human rights groups said the bills would set Iranian women back decades and reduce them to ‘baby-making machines’. The bills were drafted after the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, described family planning as an imitation of Western lifestyles, and requested that Iran’s population be doubled. As far as we are aware, these proposed bills are still being debated by parliament but we suspect that the decision to advance the bill will be taken by the new Majles in the second half of 2016.

Mashable reported that Iranian women have also taken to Instagram and adopted the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling, posting pictures of themselves defying the ban.

بچه که بودم واسه م دوچرخه نخریدن… مگه دخترام دوچرخه سواری میکنن!!! ولی من بی خیال نمیشدم، دوچرخه ی داداش کوچیکه رو کش میرفتم و توو کوچه پس کوچه ها با پسرای محل مسابقه میدادم… اولین نفری ام بودم بین هم سن و سالام توو محل که یاد گرفتم دس ولی دوچرخه برونم.. اولین باری که جفت دستامو برداشتم از روو فرمون، با همون سرعت رفتم توو یه درخت و بینی م شکست، هنوز که هنوزه بینی م اون انحراف کوچیک خاطره انگیز رو داره.. این قصه رو واسه کسایی میگم که فکر میکنن با شایعه و تهدید شون می تونن ما رو از ورزش و لذت مورد علاقه مون محروم کنن… ما بیدی نیستیم با این بادا بلرزیم! When I was a child, ,my parents did not buy me a bicycle. They said a girl does not ride a bicycle. But I did not give up. I would jump on my youngest brother’s bicycle and ride it in small allies, even competing with other boys. I was the only one in my age group among and my classmates who learnt to ride a bike hands free. The first time I did ride a bike hands free, I crashed in to a tree and broke my nose. What I see in my nose today is the sweet memory of those days. I tell this story for those who think can ban us from doing the sports we mostly enjoy with rumors and threats. We will not give up easily! #من_عاشق_دوچرخه_ام #IranianWomenLoveCycling

A photo posted by Masih Alinejad (@masih.alinejad) on

[Photo: Fusion / YouTube ]