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Iran's Nobel Peace Laureate Praises 'Men In Hijabs' Campaign

By Golnaz Esfandiari (source: RFE/RL)

Iranian human rights
activist Shirin Ebadi

Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi has praised those men who have in recent days worn the Islamic hijab to express support for jailed student Majid Tavakoli, and to protest against the hijab becoming compulsory for women in Iran after the 1979 revolution.

In a statement posted on an Iranian feminist website, Ebadi said that those who took part in the symbolic action defended not only their friend who is behind bars, but they also defended "being a woman."

Ebadi, a human rights lawyer, said that the men demonstrated with their symbolic act that they are against laws that discriminate against women in the Islamic republic. "You shouted that you respect your mothers and defend the human rights of your sister," she said.

Men wearing hijabs in support of Tavakoli

The campaign of "Men in Hijabs" (or "We're All Majid Tavakoli") was launched after the semi-official Fars news agency posted pictures of Tavakoli dressed as a woman. The news agency, which is said to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, claimed that Tavakoli had tried to escape from Tehran's Amir Kabir University after giving a passionate speech on Students Day on December 7.

Majid Tavakoli

Some bloggers and activists have suggested that Tavakoli had been forced to disguise himself as a woman by the authorities, who wanted to humiliate him.

Since last week's publishing of the images by Fars, dozens of Iranian men in Iran, the United States, France, Canada, and elsewhere have posted pictures of themselves wearing hijabs on Facebook and other websites such as to express their support for Tavakoli. Several university professors have also joined the movement (video here of "Men in Hijabs" campaign in Paris).

Ebadi, who has been criticized by hard-liners in the past for not wearing the hijab at events outside Iran, says those men who have joined the "Men in Hijabs" campaign belong to the movement for equality of Iranian women. "We will record this symbolic action with pride in the history of our movement."

Copyright (c) 2009 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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