Gina Mei
June 18, 2015 7:04 am

In Iran, it is mandatory for women to wear the hijab while in public — and it has been since 1983. According to Book Five of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Women, who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab, shall be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fine of fifty thousand to five hundred Rials.” In 2014 alone, over 3.5 million women were issued warnings and fines or put under arrest for inappropriate dress by the country’s morality police.

And now, women are protesting the laws in a beautiful and unexpected way: By showing off their hair. Started by Iranian journalist and activist Masi Alinejad, Facebook group My Stealthy Freedom encourages women to share “stealthy” pictures of themselves with their hair unveiled in public.

While at first, it may seem like the campaign shames women who wear the hijab, that’s far from the case. Rather, My Stealthy Freedom believes that wearing the hijab should be a choice — and women should be allowed to express their faith and culture however they choose. (Clearly, many agree: The Facebook page has racked up over 830,000 likes to date.)

“This is not a black and white issue,” Alinejad, who is Iranian-born but now lives in the U.S., says in a video for Vox. “Iran is for all Iranians. My mother wants to wear a scarf. I don’t want to wear a scarf. Iran should be for both of us.”

For many women and girls, the hijab is a source of empowerment and religious identity, and a means of expressing their beliefs and heritage. Hiba Alvi, one of our readers, put it beautifully in an essay for HelloGiggles earlier this year:

In most countries, wearing the hijab is a choice for Muslim women, not a requirement. My Stealthy Freedom hopes to fight the “legal and social restrictions” women face as a result of making the hijab mandatory — and the submissions they’ve received so far are all kinds of inspiring. Even those who choose to wear the hijab support the movement, and have submitted photos of their own in solidarity.

Check out more of the incredible photos below; and for more information on My Stealthy Freedom, you can follow them on Facebook right here.

(Images via.)