First Published: 2009-12-11

Veiled Iran men seek release of student leader

Scores of young men posing in photos with hijabs on social networking websites, blogs call for Tavakoli's release.


Middle East Online

Cross dressing is penalised in Iran

TEHRAN - Iranian men wearing the Islamic headscarf, or hijab, have launched a cyber campaign to press for the release of a student activist who allegedly dressed as a woman to avoid arrest during a protest.

Iran's state news agency IRNA said Majid Tavakoli was arrested on Monday as he sought to leave Tehran's Amir Kabir university "disguised as a woman" after Student Day protests.

The agency carried a photo of Tavakoli in a blue head cover and black chador.

Amir Kabir News Letter, an opposition student website, dismissed the IRNA picture as "forged," quoting witnesses.

But the news triggered a campaign on popular social networking website Facebook and some blogs, with scores of young men posing in photos with colourful head scarves, flashing a victory sign and calling for Tavakoli's release.

Tavkoli is a leading activist who spent 15 months in jail along with two fellow students after being arrested in 2006 on charges of insulting religion and the country's leadership in student publications.

Every post-pubescent woman, regardless of her religion, must cover her hair and bodily contours in public in Iran, which has been under clerical rule for 30 years.

Authorities carry out frequent moral crackdowns on un-Islamic dressers in lax hijab and tight outerwear. Cross dressing is also penalised.

There have been repeated protests in Tehran following the June 12 reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which opposition candidates and their followers have claimed was massively rigged.

Fresh protests against Ahmadinejad erupted on December 7, when Iranians campuses mark an annual Student Day.

The election has bitterly divided Iran's political class and plunged the Islamic republic into one of its worst crises.


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