In Iran, clothing merchants stop selling the veil

In Tehran (Iran).

At the Sahar* shopping and retail store, you can find a little bit of everything. Magnificent colored bowls, rugs, cushions… Islamic veils, on the other hand, are gone. The death of Mahsa Amini, arrested three weeks ago for a “misused” Islamic veil, has changed the situation of this shopkeeper who opened her shop in the center of Tehran last spring.

Before the opening, she visited a friend in Qeshm, the largest island in the Persian Gulf in the south of the country. This is where some of her crafts are made. Her friend had bought scarves to resell at her inn. “I thought they were very colorful and I thought maybe people would like them”says the young woman.

So he bought some in turn, for his own store. But after several weeks of activity, “I started to wonder if it was good to sell scarves”. The hijab, which was made compulsory in public places in 1983 after the revolution four years earlier, does not believe in it. This piece of cloth to cover the hair of her countrymen, she “I really hate” same.

a financial risk

And then there was the drama Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by the morality police. The day after the death of the 22-year-old Iranian, at the origin of the current protest movement, Sahar makes a radical decision. Under the influence of anger tinged with sadness, he removes all the veils from his business and decides to dispel them. See you never.

Financially risky? “If it can be”, concedes the manager for whom the veil, sold individually at 2,700,000 Iranian rials (just under 10 euros), was the star product and still represented almost 30% of its turnover. A risk that seems to be in the background in view of the good feedback it has received from its customers.

After taking it off, my closest friend told me that she was very happy with the decision. She told me that she had always wanted to tell me that it was better not to sell the hijab, but that she had not been able to”, also reports Sahar, who stays away from the demonstrations.

According to her, only one “minority” of costumes the actors have imitated her in her gesture. On Instagram, The most used social network by Iranians by far, several establishments made similar announcements. One of them ends his ad in Persian with the hashtag “JeNeVendsPasDe VoileObligatoire”. A decision made “while anger invades us all”, writes its author.

The “strident” colors in the sights of the authorities

Others prefer to suspend their activities without really knowing for how long or how far this movement could take the country. This is the case of Shirin*, which has been selling luxury women’s clothing for ten years, in Iran and abroad. At home, no veils but elegant cocktail dresses and casual wear.

“My clients use them as a “cloak” [sorte de manteau large et plutôt long, ndlr] but my clothes do not meet the hijab standards because most of them are transparent or do not close in the front. If you wear them on the street, the morality police will arrest you.”warns the Tehran woman in her twenties, whose products are therefore intended for use in the private sphere.

His creative freedom contrasts with the recent message sent by the Iranian authorities that manufacturers and sellers of women’s clothing were in danger of going out of business if they continued to use “garish” colors in their products.

A hardening linked to the coming to power last year of the ultra-conservative president, Ebrahim Raïssi, which has also materialized due to the increased activity of the morality police in the country’s streets.

A night market in Tehran, in 2019. | Manuel Simonay

Note, however, that at the end of 2017Under the previous presidency of Hassan Rouhani, Human Rights Iran had already implicated the regime’s hard men. The non-governmental organization accused the Iranian security forces of carrying out “a campaign of repression” and to have “relentlessly targeted and persecuted members of the country’s fashion industry”.

The freedom to watch or not

To show her solidarity with the current movement, Shirin decided to go on strike for several weeks, as some do in the country’s universities, and in particular throughout the Kurdish region where Mahsa Amini originates. But the manager would like the movement to grow.

“If everyone stops working, we can do something greatshe thinks. But it seems that this strike only concerns online businesses. the grand bazaar [véritable poumon économique du pays, ndlr], shopping malls, cafes, restaurants… None of them joined the movement.” A position that he regrets but can understand: “Our economy is in really bad shape and people really need to work.”

She has also seen on social media that officials decide not to sell the veil anymore and even close her business permanently. These, Shirin understands less: according to her, the current movement is a struggle for freedom, including that of each one to watch or not. Prayed, “Many women around the world choose to wear the hijab”remember her.


A costume designer based in the Parisian region and a specialist in Iranian fashion, Rezvan Farsijani believes that it remains “very earlystand on these issues. “It is a revolt, not yet a revolution. These women are moving forward, but we don’t know where this will lead. Will it go away in a few days? Become the seed of another revolt?, asks the author ofa detailed article on Iran’s dress codesa country “very fashion”.

Before adding: “The current movement is not limited to the simple use of the veil, the protesters demand their rights. This is real democracy, freedom. Once we have that, we think of the rest. Advisor to Iranian brands, she also recalls that the local fashion industry, like other sectors of the economy, has been able to reinvent itself despite international sanctions, sanctions that have notably limited imports and reduced the ability of Iranians to use foreign exchange.

When Sahar is asked about her vision for the future of the veil industry and its actors, she begins to kick her ass. And let it go: “I think most of them should change careers.”

* First name has been changed.

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