When you look at the history of social reforms in Iran since the revolution that brought Islamic Republic to power, the vast majority of these reforms were brought on by people (mostly women) who basically bucked the establishment.
People simply refused to change their lifestyles or what they considered minimum liberties in what they should wear or how they should act or show happiness. By the time Khatami came to power and established certain social reforms such as expanding arts, music and cinema, one of the changes were allowing colors in girls’ grade school uniforms. As silly and simple as this reform sounds it was a change from all-black-all-the-time uniforms and more importantly prior to the announced changes parents were already using colors in their kids’ uniforms such as scarves, gloves, shoes, socks, etc. So in a sense it was a people enforced reform.
There were other changes such as women using flip flops or open toed shoes or others that were gradually used by people and “forced” on the establishment to accept. It was just no other way when it’s already out there and everybody is doing it and can’t be stopped. A recent example of people enforced reforms in America is Recreational Legalization of Marijuana! Now you can have Marijuana infused ski vacations in Colorado!
Few years ago when I was visiting Iran, as you may recall there were some parks dedicated to Women Only Bicycles. I think there was even a movie where women were bicycling in Kish Island during a vacation? I even took some pictures of the signs that specifically said “Women not allowed to bicycle in this park” or areas where the signs said “Women Only Bicycling”. In the early days they didn’t even allow women to ride on the back of motorcycles or if they did they had to sit on the side like a British lady riding a horse! Talk about Iran being a country of contradictions!
But of course these rules about motorcycles and bicycles are lines drawn in sand and especially in a country like Iran with skyrocketing inflation, high unemployment and limited resources bicycles and motorcycles are a necessity and women (wives, mothers, daughters) have to ride them. So slowly you saw women riding on the back of bikes unlady like! Then you had one guy driving and the mahram woman in the middle and the presumably sister-in-law in the back! Even when you had “Women Only Bicycling Areas” there was a need for it that women had demanded.
Finally this year for the first time I saw couple of women alone on couple of bicycles, as the mode of transportation, waiting behind a traffic light to turn green. Unfortunately the light turned green sooner than I could take my camera out and take pictures. However, I was able to take the two pictures here and as you can see and as the ad for the Virginia Slims cigarettes used to say; You’ve come a long way, baby!
Out of necessity and modernity and much to the establishment’s chagrin you have young women doubling and perhaps using the bike as taxi to move from Bazaar (motorcycles are the only mode of transportation to be allowed in and out of certain parts of bazaar, due to congestion) and TEXT your way out!