In a recent fatwa, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei banned women from riding “bikes in public places.” But this left a good number of Iranian women unconvinced, and on social media they’ve posted pictures of themselves with their bicycles, daring for the first time to defy the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution.
The fatwa must be understood in the context of a big debate in Iran earlier this year. A few months ago, the government launched an environmental campaign with the tagline: “Every Tuesday, give up your car and take your bike.” Many Iranians took up the challenge.
But the new trend was not to the liking of the high-placed ultraconservatives, some of whom felt that seeing women on bicycles was contrary to Islam and constituted “indecent behaviour.” This touched off intense debate in Iran about whether or not women should be authorised to ride bikes in public.
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Over time, the ultraconservatives began to win the fight. On September 6, Iranian police prevented a big demonstration, which was to include Iranian actors and actresses, from taking place. Finally, on September 10 the FarsNews agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, published Khamenei’s fatwa banning women from riding bikes in public spaces, such as streets and parks. That means women can only ride bicycles in spaces reserved especially for them, such as women-only parks or stadiums, which can be found in most large and mid-sized Iranian cities.
The fatwa had many Iranian women up in arms. And for the first time since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, a decision by the Supreme Leader has been openly criticised. Iranian women have been publishing photos of themselves on their bikes, notably on the Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom,” where women had previously posted photos of themselves without their veils, which are obligatory in Iran.
Initially published on France24 on 09/21/2016
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