Iranian security forces have arrested a young girl who “dared” to ride a bicycle last Monday in Najafabad in central Iran’s Isfahan province, the local governor announced on Tuesday, October 20.
Mojtaba Ra’ei, the Governor of Najafabad, described the act of the woman, who was without a hijab while riding a bicycle in the main square of the city, as “disrespecting the norms and insulting the Islamic hijab.”
Footage of the girl riding a bicycle without covering her head and triumphantly waving her hand in the air has been widely circulated on social media. It appears that the citizens of Najafabad were not shocked by the courageous move. A man filming the cyclist even goes further by loudly praising her courage and saying, “Has the Shah and freedom returned to Iran?”
Nonetheless, according to Governor Ra’ei, a “spontaneous protest rally” will be held Tuesday to protest the woman’s cycling.
The “spontaneous” rally will be held in compliance with “health protocols,” Ra’ei asserted.
Najafabad, with an urban population of 235,281, is 340 kilometers (about 212 miles) south of Iran’s capital city, Tehran, and is widely known for its people’s highly traditional and religious beliefs.
The issue of women’s cycling has been a heated debate in the Iranian public and media for more than twenty years, due to the fierce opposition of religious and governmental institutions.
Iranian women had long assumed that they could ride a bike in public if they respected Iran’s strict dress code, which requires women to cover their hair and body in public completely.
In 2016, Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Ali Khamenei, appeared to crush the notion with a fatwa explicitly banning women from cycling in public, but it was not strictly enforced.
Khamenei’s fatwa prompted an angry reaction from female cyclists, who launched a social media campaign in defiance of the ban.
Hundreds of women uploaded photos of themselves on their bicycles on social media. “No Sexual Arousal; I am merely riding a bicycle,” some had written on their garments.
Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the clerical establishment has enforced Islamic laws denying women equal rights in divorce and inheritance, prohibiting women from traveling abroad without a male relative’s permission, and attending major men’s sports events.