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Masih Alinejad, a lifelong advocate for Muslim women in the Islamic Republic of Iran, has written a memoir about her struggles against poverty, political repression and personal crisis. An award-winning journalist, broadcaster and blogger, she now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Ms. Alinejad was two-years-
old at the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. She grew up in Ghomikola, a small, traditional village of 650 people in northern Iran where her mother, a tailor and a respected figure in their community was the exception to the rule. She was a strong, self-possessed role model. Her father, however, felt that girls were not allowed to run around and play outside the house. Boys had freedom but girls were kept indoors and out of sight. He was a member of the Basij, a paramilitary force, like a morality police, which defends the strict social codes in place after the Iranian revolution. Early on as a teenager Ms. Alinejad realized that being forced to wear the hijab was symbolic of the control the regime maintains over women. She writes that she is not opposed to the hijab, but believes it should be a matter of personal choice. Women who appear in public without a hijab risk being arrested.
Although not the first woman to protest the forced wearing of a hajib (headscarf), the author played a part in a growing movement in civil disobedience that spread through cities and small villages in Iran.
Ms. Alineajad was expelled from high school and imprisoned for not wearing a chador – a large clock-like garment that leaves only a woman’s face visible.
She left Iran to study in the United Kingdom, but returned in 2009 as a journalist to cover the elections. She was forced to flee when Iran cracked down on journalists and dissidents during the Green Movement, the pro-reform protests that took place across Iran in 2009.
The author became a target of the Iranian government as a political journalist and women’s rights activist. She was expelled from Iran and had to leave her family and her son behind.
In 2014, Ms. Alinejad founded “My Stealthy Freedom Movement” (also known as Stealthy Freedoms of Iranian Women), a global Facebook social media campaign, inviting Iranian women to post photos of themselves without a hijab. In 2015, the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy gave her its women’s rights award. In 2017, Ms. Alinejad created a weekly protest, “White Wednesdays,” another platform inviting Iranian women, and men, to wear something white on Wednesdays to protest compulsory hijab laws in Iran. “I realized,” she writes, “I was fighting both Trump’s Islamophobia and the Islamic Republic of Iran’s misogynist policies.”
For her continued role in the movement, she has faced not only alienation from her family and country but also death threats. Ms. Alinejad is a presenter/producer for the U.S. government-funded Voice of America Persian Service, and tapes a weekly program on human rights. She is a correspondent for Radio Fadar and a contributor to IranWire. She has also been published in Time Magazine and the Washington Post.
Her memoir ably recounts her experiences to restore the rights of women in Iran. Free of her hajib, she lives in exile with little hope of returning to her native Iran.