The annals of Internet activism in Iran have spanned from the serious to the frivolous: highlighting political crackdowns as well as tweaking conservative sensibilities with selfies of rich children partying poolside in Tehran.
Now add cross-dressing to the list.
A campaign encouraged by the site My Stealthy Freedom — a gathering point for images and comments about Iranian life away from the eyes of authorities — is urging Iranian men to don head scarves, known as hijab, or full Islamic coverings as a poke at the public dress codes for women.
The responses have included veiled men — complete with mustaches and stubble — and even a few who have put on a chador, a flowing full-body garment that reveals only the face.
Iranian women have pushed the boundaries in public for decades, testing how far they can nudge back head scarves or how tight and short they can wear coats or tunics. The idea of getting men to take the hijab challenge has a playful side but also reflects the ceaseless culture wars inside the country.
Reformists seemed to be a roll with last year’s nuclear deal, which opened the way to resume economic ties with the West. Hard-liners, however, are always in the mix. In recent months, they have stepped up pressures on many fronts — including sharper enforcement of head scarves and other coverings for women.
“I hate when they used morality police in order to force my wife to wear compulsory hijab. There are a lot of men in Iran who have respect for women’s freedom of choice,” according to a translation of one post on the My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page.
There little chance that Iran would officially ease its rules on hijab. Yet activists also know that cultural evolution always has been part of the country since the 1979 Iranian revolution, gradually opening the way for female artists, politicians and others.
Lately, Iranian fashionistas have even been picking apart the outfits for Iran’s athletes at the Opening Ceremonies for the upcoming Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Many critics have called the designs a wreck of drab form and dull colors: Men in a blue jacket, navy blue pants and a mustard-color shirt; women in black pants, a blue knee-length coat and, of course, a black head scarf.