| My Stealthy Freedom |
Project on forced hijab in Iran © 2017
"By combining social and political commentary with aesthetics in her series, 'My Stealthy Freedom Iran', Marinka Masséus makes a statement about women’s rights, specifically in relation to the forced wearing of hijabs, chadors and burkas. With her images, Masséus addresses a woman’s right to choose whether to be “seen” or not. Wearing colorful, airy fabrics that seem to resist gravity, the sitters might belie the actual burden of wearing such garb. Instead, what is revealed is a bit of the wearer’s personality. We may not be able to see their faces but we can feel the force of their spirits. The hijab can be a state of mind as well as a state of dress and, for me, these portraits speak to a growing resistance toward repressive control, sartorial or otherwise."
| My Stealthy Freedom Iran | © 2017
- LensCulture Portrait Awards 2017, Winner Juror's Pick
- Shortlisted Felix Schoeller Photo Award 2017
This project reflects on forced hijab, the much hated symbol of oppression for so many women.
Every day, Iranians, especially the women, defy the regime courageously by small acts of defiance. By wearing the hijab too low, the colors too bright, the pants too tight or the manteau too short. Together these constant acts of bravery are affecting change, slowly but visibly evolving. The regime responds to this with regular crack-downs - when women are arrested and harassed - and by creating new laws, like the recent ban for women to ride a bicycle.
With the windows of my Tehran apartment covered with tinfoil so that the flash would not be visible from outside, we were safe to create and let creativity flow. The women threw their brightly colored headscarf in the air and as it inescapably floated back to them, I captured this act of defiance.
Below you’ll find a few reflections of their feelings:
“As a girl, I did not want to follow a rule that was forced on me! But I had to, cuz if something is not obeyed here, there will be consequences! And I did not wanted to trouble myself or my family in any way! So I followed but that did not made me a believer! From the time I went to school I always heard that we all are brothers and sisters! That we are all equal! But in real life.. well there was no equality! Coz I had to cover up for the men! How is that equal?! How come they didn’t have to cover up for me?!”
“Revolution happened Iran before I was born, two years before so when I grew up I thought this is how it must be, women should look like that, but when I checked my mom's photo or I saw movies I found a paradox, why there is difference between us and the other little girls in other countries? I grew up with this paradox, all my teenage hood and after it I had this war inside myself that I didn't want to wear scarfs or long shirts, I wanted to have wind in my hair, being exposed to sunlight like a normal person! But I didn't get the real truth until the government made some special police for compulsory hijab called "gashte ershad " when I got arrested by police and they treat me like a criminal (taking my photo with name , fingerprint,..) I got the bitter truth, I felt like a bird getting stuck in a cage, my natural way of living is different than the way our government and society forced me to be, all my life I tried to respect others believes but literally no one in government has respected mine, at least it has been 10 years that every time I want to go out I felt someone’s oppression and injustice on my head, I really feel imprisoned in scarf and hijab.”
“My parents were communists, they fought for freedom against the Shah, and then were betrayed by Khomeini and his regime. I carry their fire for freedom in me. After the government repressed the Green Movement in 2009, many of the young people have given up hope. But I haven’t. When I look around in the streets and see the bright colors, the girls wearing the hijabs so low with their hair showing, I see hope. I see change. Even 5 years ago it was all brown and black, like the regime wants. But now colors, colors, colors! So every day I wear my bright colored hijab and get on my bike (which is against the law now) to defy the regime. And I will live my life and not hide who I am. I have hope."
“As an Iranian peace activist, I always suffered from the compulsory hijab in my country. I always felt the pressure of being controlled. In recent years, when I could travel to other countries, for the first time in my life I felt the amazing sense of wind circulation in my hair. This is so saddening; people in other countries never appreciate what they have because they are not aware that there are countries where women are still fighting for their basic needs. The burden is beyond imagination of foreigners, but this is just the tip of the iceberg."