Women in Iran have been banned by the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, from riding bikes in public places. “Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned,” he told state media, reports the New York Times.
Rebelling against the fatwa, Iranian women are bravely sharing photos of themselves riding bikes on social media using the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling, clocking thousands of views.
“There is no law, or there is no penalty for those women who ride a bicycle in public space in Iran but the gender ideology of Islamic Republic of Iran has always been radical… they are scared of our presence in society,” says Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist living in exile in Brooklyn, facilitator of the activist Facebook group My Stealthy Freedom and the brains behind the campaign.
“They don’t want us to sing solo, they don’t want us to ride a bike, they don’t want us to show our hair… This is the twenty-first century, and it is shameful that Iranian women want to be more active in society but the religious figures and leaders in society in Iran want to push women behind the curtain and stay in the kitchen,” she explains in an Instagram video.
In another video on social media, an Iranian woman says while cycling, "No-one protested against us today because men were biking with us. Here they say when you have a man as your company, you are protected.
"But when I got a bit further than the men in the group I heard people saying nasty things about me biking.
“I will be proud that I did resist the oppression as I believe those who oppress us are wrong. Biking for women is not a taboo and no-one can tell me it is."