Recently published research reveals that that nearly half of Iranians want the wearing of hijab to be voluntary, not compulsory.

The study, conducted by the Iranian President’s Center for Strategic Studies, was actually finalized in 2014, but was only published on Saturday, February 3, shortly after anti-hijab protests — now dubbed the Revolution Woman movement — took place in several cities in Iran, leading to the arrest of at least 29 protesters. The center’s website touts the study as a “proper” guide to understanding what it describes as the Revolution Woman “phenomenon.” 

It summarizes the findings of four surveys conducted in 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2014. Among the key points it asked people to respond to was the statement: “Dress type and hijab are personal questions and the government must not interfere.” In 2006, 34.7 percent of respondents agreed with this statement. In 2007, 2010 and 2014 the figures were, respectively, 25.5, 53.7 and 49.2 percent.

What is surprising is that the number of Iranians who agreed with the statement fell sharply in 2007, but then in 2010 the figure more than doubled. One theory to explain the sharp fall was that it was the result of widespread propaganda during the first two years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency — and then one year after the disputed 2009 presidential election, social and political grievances reversed the flow.

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