Ontario Humanist Society « Feature Interview – Masih Alinejad
[***This single interview is actually a combination of the two interviews conducted in the first week of February, 2015. Some sentences had to be slightly re-worked to bridge language barriers and overlap. The essence of the questions and the answers however, and for the purposes of this article, have stayed true to their meaning and intent....]
It isn’t easy catching up with Iranian journalist, writer and activist Masih Alinejad. On the day I finally catch her by phone after multiple back and forth messaging on Facebook (coincidentally, it is also World Hijab Day),
I find she is generous with her time and thoughts and also understandably rushed. She is very much in demand since posting her “My Stealthy Freedom” Facebook page less than a year ago. The page invites Iranian women to post photos of themselves without their headscarves. The page received more than 500,000 likes in its first month alone and continues to grow internationally and among fans here in Canada. This page has generated much debate around compulsory veiling and has also generated much media attention in Europe, North America and Iran. Indeed she is so busy that our conversation must be broken up into two parts.
For our first conversation, she is at home in New York, where she has lived for the past five months with her new husband, after living in England for five years. She is getting ready to see a publisher in the hopes she can write a book about her experience and her life. The second time we speak – a few days later — I reach her aboard a train leaving Washington DC after giving a talk about “My Stealthy Freedom” at Georgetown University. She tells me that Vogue magazine is preparing to do a spread on her next month as well. While she has been largely applauded by Western media and audiences, Alinejad has been maligned by the Iranian government and media. She says she knows if she ever returns to Iran, she will be arrested. She says she stands accused of removing her veil in public and of inciting so-called anti-Islamic behaviour by talking about it openly and brazenly on social media — creating what she calls a safe, public forum to debate the issue of compulsory versus optional veiling and for providing a platform for Iranian women who oppose compulsory veiling to share their experiences.
Controversy and conflict is nothing new to Alinejad. She was arrested at 19 for distributing flyers that were critical of the Iranian government and later, was kicked out of Parliament as a political reporter, after writing some critical articles. She was denied permission to attend university and so moved to England to pursue a degree. That is where she started “My Stealthy Freedom” – something she says she could not have done without platforms offered by social media, I began by asking her how and why she started “My Stealthy Freedom”.
see the interview and pictures at the link above.