PARIS — On Wednesday, Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche, along with other French screen and music stars, posted a video of themselves cutting off locks of hair in solidarity with protesters in Iran. Binoche said, “For freedom,” as she cut off a large chunk of her hair from the top of her head and waved it around in front of the cameras.
In the midst of widespread anti-government protests in Iran, a video with the hashtag “HairForFreedom” has emerged. The arrest and subsequent death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaking the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code sparked the unrest. It has become a common sight at the protests for some Iranian demonstrators to publicly shave their heads.
From Turkish singer Melek Mosso on stage last week to women in Lebanon and Syria to Swedish lawmaker Abir Al-Sahlani in the European Parliament halls in Strasbourg on Tuesday images of women cutting their hair in solidarity with Iranian women have gone viral. The Iranian Embassy in Rome is the intended recipient of a collection of locks of hair being collected by a museum there.
Dorna Javan, an Iranian political scientist based in France who specializes in Iran, has said, “For women to cut their hair in Iran is a form of protest… a symbol to stand against the mandatory hijab.” She went on to say that this kind of visible show of support would help women all over the world stand in solidarity with their counterparts in Iran.
The Instagram account “soutienfemmesiran,” which translates to “support women in Iran,” posted a video of Cotillard, Binoche, and dozens of other women cutting off locks of hair. These men and women are appealing to us for help. They have our respect because of their bravery and honor, as stated in the accompanying post.
Because of the appeal made to us, we have decided to cut some of these locks ourselves. Actress Charlotte Rampling was also a participant as was singer Charlotte Gainsbourg’s daughter Charlotte, who was filmed snipping a lock of her mother’s hair.
The custom of women in Iran chopping off their hair as a symbol of protest has deep roots in the country’s history and folklore. In the national epic of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan, The Shahnameh (“The Book of Kings”), written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010 A.D., a princess cuts off her hair as a form of protest against the unjust death of her husband.
Shara Atashi, an Iranian author living in Wales, tweeted, “Women cutting their hair is an ancient Persian tradition also found in the Shahnameh when the fury is stronger than the power of the oppressor.”
Scientist Javan referred to it as a “benevolent gesture” and urged stronger political action from the international community to support protesters in Iran.
“We can’t reduce the fight of Iranian women for their rights,” she said, referring to a struggle that began in the second half of the nineteenth century. But these videos can help their cause go viral and reach people all over the world.
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