The Wind in Her Hair: Masih Alinejad And Her Fight Against Mandatory Hijab

May 30, 2018 - 1:24 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad is the woman behind the movement to rid her native country of the mandatory hijab.

Alinejad said when she was a young girl growing up in a strict Muslim family in a small northern Iranian village she didn't have a clue about equality or freedom of choice.

But she had an older brother and she saw that they were different.

"He was 2 years older than me, but he was my example of all the freedom that I was envying. i wanted to have it," Alinejad said. "He was free to run in a beautiful village and enjoy his freedom -- like feeling the wind in his hair, jumping into the river, riding a bicycle but I was not because I had to be a 'good girl,' 'a proper girl' in my traditional family."

Women in Iran have no choice when it comes to covering their hair and those who defy the law risk punishment, even jail time.

"From the age of 7 all girls when they start school they have to cover themselves," said Alinejad. "If you don't wear it then you won't be able to go to school, you won't be able to get a job, you won't be able to live in your own country if you say, 'No, I don't want to wear this.'"

But despite the risk, Alinejad has fought the law and started a movement known as #MyStealthyFreedom against compulsory hijab.

"Women like taking the streets back, breaking the censorship, taking the media back and all the government are talking about our protest, she said. "Before this movement people were saying, 'This is a small issue, we have so many bigger problems in the Middle East. Let's solve the bigger problems.' But if they don't let you solve small problems, they don't let you control your head how are they going to allow you to control what's going on inside your head? When they're not allowing you to solve small problems definitely this government will not allow you to solve bigger problems. So we broke this taboo and this cliche that this is a small problem."

Alinejad chronicles her fight in her new memoir "The Wind in My Hair."

"I sacrificed my life for freedom and sometimes I get really homesick," Alinejad said.

She said she has received death threats, was called names and accused of being traitor, cannot return to Iran and is not connected to her family.

But that has only emboldened her.

"I was crying from the beginning. Heartbroken, so sad, victimizing myself. 'Why they do this to me?' But now I feel that we are powerful and the government of Iran cannot do anything with us. They cannot control us. That's why they try to attack our sexuality," Alijenad said. "This is about my body, this is about my identity, this is about my dignity and now women are taking over and challenging the main pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran."