Iraq: The Campaign ‘Reform of the hijab’


In a new campaign of its kind, created by a group calling itself the ‘Centre of al-Kadamiyya for Civil Society’, in June 2010 the group started a campaign called ‘Reform of the Hijab’. Some activists in Iraq believe that the government has a role in distributing tens of adverts in the streets of the neighbourhood of al-Kadamiyya (North Baghdad), placing them near the military checkpoints that are spread all over the city. Some of these adverts and pictures show uncovered or partly-covered women in such a way as to suggest they are somehow disgusting or ugly.

This campaign has provoked discussions and controversial debates between activists – male and female – in the field of human rights, members of parliament and lawyers. Some of them regard this campaign to be a regression from the freedoms that were guaranteed under the constitution and an attempt to impose dress codes for women, while some indicated the reason for this campaign is the attempt by the Islamic parties and forces to control society through suppressing freedoms.

In reaction to the appearance of the ‘Reform of the Hijab’ campaign, there is a dialogue ongoing amongst Iraqi women activists about whether to establish a campaign to counter this appearance of these adverts and the attempt by some fundamentalists to impose such regulations and take Iraqi society back to the dark ages.

A number of questions come to mind: is the prevailing culture (that is a patriarchal culture) fertile ground for the acceptance of such a dangerous phenomenon? What is the role of neighbouring countries in supporting this phenomenon? Do some Islamic parties and forces have an interest in keeping Iraqi society backward and even returning it to the dark ages in order to guarantee that they stay in their positions and continue to maintain the privileges they enjoy? Finally, does the government have a role in supporting such campaigns?

By Farah al-Dujaili

Translation from the Arabic (العراق: حملة تصحيح الحجاب) by Eleanor Kilroy