by Rosie Alfatlawi
Images of a Chinese musician looking mortified as her performance in Tehran is interrupted for her head to be covered have been shared widely on Iranian social media.
The incident has been criticized as an example of regime “suppression” of women in Iran, where the headscarf is compulsory.
In a series of photos the visiting drummer is first seen bareheaded after her hijab fell off, before a woman in black appears on stage to return the garment, stopping the musician in her tracks.
این بنده خدارو از چین اوردن جشنواره موسیقی فجر.وقتی روسریش حین اجرا افتاد سریعا خواهران و برادران گرامی دست بکار شدند و پارچه سیاهی برای رعایت حجابش پیدار کردند و سرش کردند#جشنواره_موسیقی_فجر. #چین. #مملکته. #موسیقی. pic.twitter.com/1prk9kecWa— mohammad.moheimany (@mhmoheimany) January 12, 2018
The pictures were captured by Iranian photographer Mohammad Moheimany, who shared them to his Twitter account on Friday. His post alone has gained 2,500 likes and 390 retweets.
Among those who have responded with anger is Masih Alinejad of the My Stealthy Freedom campaign. Launched in 2014, the online campaign encourages Iranian women to post videos of themselves without hijab in public.
“This woman was invited from China to participate in Fajr Festival,” Alinejad wrote on Twitter.
“Look how humiliating it is when in the middle of her performance agents emerge from behind the curtains and cover her head with a black piece cloth because her headscarf has slipped off her head,” she continued.
@theexiledsaint described the incident as “shameful,” suggesting authorities had “imposed their intolerance on invited guests.” “Really embarrassing,” added @somayeh35138745.
Fajr is an international music festival held annually in the Iranian capital. This particular occasion had seen the traditional Chinese drummers perform alongside Iranian Kurdish musicians.
Others linked it to recent demonstrations in Iran.
“This is #Iran under the mullahs rule,” tweeted @HeshmatAlavi. “A Chinese artist is forced by authorities to wear a hijab. More reasons why millions of Iranians are involved in #IranProtests.”
The protests, which saw hundreds arrested and 21 killed across a few days, were largely seen as economic in character. Still, one woman filmed demonstrating by waving her hijab was hailed as a “hero” and “symbol of defiance.”
Many are also angry about what they see as unfulfilled promises by President Rouhani to address gender inequality.
Masih Alinejad wrote on her Facebook page that the “protests are not just about corruption and economy [...] this is about resisting the machinery of repression.”
زنان اين #چهارشنبه_های_سفید هم ويديوي بدون حجاب احباري مي فرستند— My Stealthy Freedom (@masihpooyan) January 1, 2018
Women are at the forefront of #Iranprotests so support our coming #WhiteWednesdays protest against compulsory hijab as well no veil with white symbol https://t.co/6KcqDQ2GMw
Meanwhile, more lighthearted responses to the images from the Fajr festival drew attention to the unimpressed expression of the male musician captured.
“Just look at the boy,” wrote @Atlas_1993, while @MikewattWatt suggested he was asking “are you serious?!”
Mohsen Sharifian, who played the bagpipes at the event, said that focus on the hijab had distracted from its main purpose of bridging cultural divides, Rudaw reported. He described the scarf falling off the woman as an accident.
Compulsory hijab was imposed in Iran following the 1979 revolution. In late December last year, Iranian authorities announced that police would no longer arrest women who violated the strict dress code. Instead, offenders would be punished by attending classes.
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