Masih Alinejad was arrested and threatened with execution for speaking out against rulers in Iran.
Masih Alinejad was arrested and threatened with execution for speaking out against rulers in Iran.

Woman who shames men as part of a bigger movement

"PUT on your veil," a man in a suit jacket tells a woman with her hair uncovered.

"Are you a cop?" she asks him.

"Yes … take her plate number," he says to another male standing nearby.

"What does it have to do with you?" she asks.

"It concerns me … I'm a Muslim."

"So what," she fires back. "What are you afraid of?"

This is a typical exchange for a woman whose days are filled with men telling her what she can, can't, should and must wear in a country where dressing freely lands women in prison.

Video of the interaction, which was filmed on a mobile phone, was posted to the Instagram account of Masih Alinejad last week.


Ms Alinejad is making a name for herself on the platform where she shames the men who stop her - and other women - in public demanding they cover their hair. The video has already been viewed more than 1.6 million times.

The man's response is not unusual in Iran, a country where strict Islamic laws force women aged seven and over to wear the veil. But it wasn't always like that.

Prior to the revolution in 1979, women dressed as they pleased. If they wanted to wear the veil, they could, but they could also wear a dress. It's not been that way since religious leader and politician Ayatollah Khomeini returned from exile and transformed Iran into an Islamic republic, banning booze and music in cities where both were once deeply embedded in the culture.

In another video posted on Instagram this week, Ms Alinejad shames another man for demanding women dress modestly.

. این مرد با وحشی‌گری جلوی ماشین مرا گرفته و می‌گه باید حجابت را سرت کنی تا اجازه حرکت بدم. ما را با ترس و تهدید ساکت کردند ولی من تن ندادم #دوربین_ما_اسلحه_ما فرستنده فیلم نوشته: سلام من اين گزارشو با نهايت تاسف براي تو مسيح جان مي فرستم حين رانندگي بودم و مادر بزرگمو قرار بود برسونم جايي يك لحظه روسريم از سرم افتاد يه موتور سوار با دو سرنيشن از كنار من مدام با لحن بسيار زننده اشاره مي كردن كه روسريتو سرت كن من كه بسيار ناراحت شده بودم روسريمو بلا فاصله سرم كردم ولي از اونجايي كه ٣٠٠ متر جلو تر بايد مادربزرگمو پياده مي كردم موتور سوار هم با من پیچید جلوی من از موتور پياده شد و منو از ماشين كشوند بيرون من براي دفاع از خودم گوشيمو در اوردم و شروع كردم به گرفتن فيلم ايشون كه با فرياد منو تهديد كرد كه بي جا كردي روسريت از سرت افتاد يه كارت از تو جيبش در اورد كه بدون اينكه بزاره حتي من اسمشو ببينم گفت اين كارتمه واستا شماره پلاكتو بردارم و مثلا خاست منو تهديد كنه وقتي متوجه فيلم گرفتن من شد دستمو محكم كشيد تا موبايلمو از دستم بكشه بيرون و اينكار و كرد و من تلاش كردم موبايلمو ازش پس بگيرم مردم و راننده هاي تاكسي خطي به دفاع از من ريختن و من تونستم موبايلمو پس بگيرم پريدم تو ماشين كه راه بيفتم خودشو از شيشه جلو راننده پرت كرد داخل ماشین با هول دادن من و زد و خورد پرت كردن دستم از روي سوييچ ، تونست سوييچ ماشينو از زير دستم من بكشه بيرون مردها كه اين صحنه رو ديدن به دادم رسيدن بقيش تو فيلم دومی که می‌فرستم واضحه که پرید داخل ماشینم . اسم این کار امر به معروف نیست دخالت در انتخاب آدم‌هاست. سالهاست این مزاحمت ها وجود داره و ما با دوربین هامون تازه داریم افشا می کنیم این خشونت محض رو. #چهارشنبه_های_سفید

A post shared by Masih Alinejad (@masih.alinejad) on


"What does it have to do with you? Who are you? Nobody," a woman tells him.

"You're an issue," he says. "You're risking my mental security."

The woman asks him if he's so "loose" that he can't control himself.

"I can control myself pretty well actually," he tells her. "Where there's a virus in the society, you have to destroy it."

"Guess who the virus is," she responds. "You are the virus."

Next to the video, Ms Alinejad wrote: "This guys tells me that since I'm not wearing my compulsory hijab, I'm a corrupting influence in society. He took a photo of our car in order to scare us. They have been harassing us in the streets for the past 40 years."

On Facebook, Ms Alinejad shared a video from Isfahan, an ordinarily-peaceful city about 350kms south of Tehran. It shows a confrontation between women and local police at the touristy Naqsh-e Jahan Square.

Masih Alinejad posts videos of Muslim men and women telling other women how to dress.
Masih Alinejad posts videos of Muslim men and women telling other women how to dress.

She said women who were confronted by police received rare support from both sexes who witnessed the spectacle begin to spiral out of control.

"This time people united against morality police in Iran. The morality police wanted to arrest the girl because they believed her hijab was not appropriate.

"The girl stood up to film them and police took her mobile away. But people supported her by chanting. 'Give her mobile back, leave her alone.'

"In the end, the police ran away. When we resist the morality police, we need men to support us like this. Resistance and solidarity are what we need."

Ms Alinejad is used to resisting. The journalist behind the My Stealthy Freedom project has been resisting since she was a little girl. She was always outspoken, but she pushed it further aged 19 when she was arrested and held in prison where a judge told her she could be executed for challenging the status quo.

She told The Guardian it was the "scariest thing that has ever happened" to her and that she thought her life was over.

"I was so young and I was being threatened, held in solitary confinement, not allowed to see a lawyer. I didn't know whether I'd ever get out, whether I'd ever see my family again."

Masih Alinejad is fighting back against Islam in Iran by removing her veil.
Masih Alinejad is fighting back against Islam in Iran by removing her veil.

When she was eventually let out, she trained as a journalist, moved abroad and lost her hijab for good.

In January, following protests in Iran against the ruling elite, Ms Alinejad told an English-language news channel in Turkey that demonstrators were "frustrated" and "asking for a better life".

"People were fed up with all the corruption. People were really radical. They were chanting against the dictatorship," she said.

Twenty-two people died during the protests which only ended when Iran's supreme leader labelled protesters "enemies of the state" and promised an "end of the sedition".

Iran returned to normal soon after but pockets of society are holding on to hope there will be change.

Ms Alinejad has never given up and her following proves she is not alone.

In May she released the book The Wind in My Hair: My Fight for Freedom in Modern Iran. And on Facebook she wrote: "I live every day with these ordinary people and people's heroes who send me their movies and messages, and every time I hear their story, I will be full of enthusiasm and power."