The newest manifestation of protests in Iran is flipping turbans of the clergy, something profoundly worrisome for Islamic Republic’s authorities as well as Muslim clerics abroad.
Tossing the turbans of clergymen as they are walking in streets is now part of the current wave of antigovernment protests across Iran, which started as a reaction to the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody of hijab police. Younger Iranians tired of government attempts to force them to observe the mandatory Islamic dress code and a restricted lifestyle, began protests and disobedience in mid-September.
In recent weeks, people have started knocking off or stealing the turbans worn by clerics as they are traditionally seen as the symbols of the Islamic Republic, no matter their political inclination.
Turbans as well as other Islamic attires have been used in Iran even before the Islamic Revolution but the styles and quality of the cloth used changed with the advent of the Islamic Republic and the rise to power of the mullahs. One of the new fashions is called crown-style turban, in which the front side of the turban is a bit elevated.
There are some people on social media – even from the anti-regime camp – that describe the move as not totally civil and against personal freedoms, but most are of the opinion that this is only a show of defiance against the country’s strict rules that justify violence against women deemed as loosely veiled in public.
Ironically, in a society where women felt insecure over their appearance, it is time that mullahs understand how women felt for the past 40 years, proponents of ‘turban tossing’ say. Some argue that if the mullahs were arrested violently on streets, taken to a detention center humiliated and threatened, and were not allowed to leave, that is when they would better feel how women were treated on streets by the ‘morality police’ all these years.
Masih Alinejad, one of the first Iranian anti-hijab activists, says that clerics had it coming after harassing women in public over hijab for years.
Some of the protesters are even having fun with it, creating a fake federation for it and calling it a new sport. They even went so far that they came up with different categories and scoring criteria for the sport such how long the turban stays in the air and how far it goes before hitting the ground.
The twitter account of the ‘federation’ now has over 30 thousand followers, so it is safe to say that this is becoming a popular sport. Some social media users say Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the final target in the game of turban tossing.
Iran's ruler Ali Khamenei
The phenomenon has forced many clerics to tie their turbans under their chins or use other head coverings to keep them on their heads as they walk in the streets. People are making fun of that too with new fake inventions that can help the clergy keep their turbans in place.
This new addition to the ongoing protests has caused a stir among regime officials and has even made Iraqi Shia cleric and politician Muqtada al-Sadr worried that the trend may spread to his side of the border as a form of protest against Islamic autocracy. He released a statement to condemn the act after many Iraqi young people started to dare their friends on social media to flip some turbans.
Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr
Something has changed in Iran with the death of Mahsa Amini. People are less and less afraid of the regime. A common scene on the streets is now a woman who has unveiled in public because she is tremendously courageous and a cleric who has removed his turban out of fear.