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On 8 January 1936, pro-western ruler Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran (Persia) issued a decree known as Kashf-e hijab (also Romanized as "Kashf-e hijāb" and "Kashf-e hejāb", Persian: کشف حجاب, lit. 'Unveiling') banning all Islamic veils (including headscarf and chador), an edict that was swiftly and forcefully implemented. The government also banned many types of male traditional clothing. Since then, the Hijab issue has become controversial in Iranian politics. One of the enduring legacies of Reza Shah has been turning dress into an integral problem of Iranian politics.
In 1936 Reza Shah banned the veil and encouraged Iranians to adopt European dress in an effort to promote nation-building in a country with many tribal, regional, religious, and class-based variations in clothing.
It was the policy of the Shah to increase women's participation in society as a method of the modernization of the country, in accordance with the example of Turkey. The Queen and the other women of the royal family assisted in this when they started to perform public representational duties as role models for women participating in public society, and they also played an active part as role models in the Kashf-e hijab.
The unveiling of women had a huge symbolic importance to achieve women's participation in society, and the shah introduced the reform gradually so as not to cause unrest. While women teachers where encouraged to unveil in 1933 and schoolgirls and women students in 1935, the official declaration of unveiling were made on 8 January 1936, and the queen and her daughters where given an important role in this event.
That day, Reza Shah attended the graduation ceremony of the Tehran Teacher's College with the queen and their two daughters unveiled and dressed in modern clothes, without veils. The queen handed out diplomas, while the shah spoke about half the population being disregarded, and told women that the future was now in their hands. This was the first time an Iranian queen showed herself in public. Afterwards, the Shah had pictures of his unveiled wife and daughters published, and unveiling enforced throughout Iran.
To enforce this decree, the police were ordered to physically remove the veil from any woman who wore it in public. Women were beaten, their headscarves and chadors torn off, and their homes forcibly searched.[excessive citations]
Until Reza Shah's abdication in 1941, many women simply chose not leave their houses in order to avoid confrontations, and a few even committed suicide to avoid removing their hijabs due to the decree. A far larger escalation of violence occurred in the summer of 1935, when Reza Shah ordered all men to wear European-style bowler hats. This provoked massive non-violent demonstrations in July in the city of Mashhad, which were brutally suppressed by the Imperial Iranian army, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 100 to 500 people (including women and children).[excessive citations]
Some Western historians has stated that this would have been a progressive step if women had indeed chosen to do it themselves, but that this ban humiliated and alienated many Iranian women, since its effect was, because of the effect of traditional beliefs, comparable to a hypothetical situation in which European women were suddenly ordered to go out topless into the street. Some historians have pointed out that Reza Shah's ban on veiling and his policies were unseen in Atatürk's Turkey. The decree by Reza Shah was criticized by British consul in Tehran:
Next to their daily bread, what affects the people most widely is what touches the code of social habit that, in Islam, is endorsed by religion. Among Muslims, the Iranians are not a fanatical people. The unveiling of women inaugurated in the preceding year attacks the people's social conservatism as much as their religious prejudice. Above all, like conscription, it symbolizes the steady penetration into their daily lives of an influence that brings with it more outside interference, more taxation. But one can easily exaggerate the popular effect of unveiling; it is a revolution for the well-to-do of the towns, but lower down the scale, where women perform outdoor manual labour, its effects both on habit and on the family budget diminish until among the tribal folk of all degrees they are comparatively slight. Hence, resistance among the greater part of the people has been passive, and, where existing, has manifested itself in reluctance of the older generation to go abroad in the streets. It is one thing to forbid women to veil; it is another thing to make them mingle freely with men— 
According to Iran's current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the policy was aimed at "eradicating the tremendous power of faith" in Muslim societies that was enabled by what he termed the "decency of women", as hijab in his view prevented Muslim women from suffering from the "malicious abuse" that he regarded women in the West to be victims of, and what in his view made people preoccupied with sexual desires.
One of the enduring legacies of Reza Shah has been turning dress into an integral problem of Iranian politics. Under next ruler Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, official measures relaxed slightly, and wearing of the veil or chador was no longer an offence, but under his regime, the chador became a significant hindrance to climbing the social ladder, as it was considered a badge of backwardness and an indicator of being a member of the lower class. Discrimination against the women wearing the headscarf or chador was still widespread with public institutions actively discouraging their use, with even some restaurants refusing to admit women who wore them. This period is characterized by the dichotomy between a minority who considered wearing the veil as a sign of backwardness and the majority who did not.
Despite all legal pressures and obstacles, the largest proportion of Iranian women continued to wear veils or chadors, contrary to widespread opposing claims. Earlier in the mid-1930s, only four thousand out of 6.5 million Iranian women ventured into public places without veils, almost all in Tehran and consisting mainly of Western-educated daughters of the upper class, foreign wives of recent returnees from Europe, and middle-class women from the minorities.
During the 1970s, hijab was considered by some as a sign of "virtue", and was considered by Pahlavis as a rejection of their rule, with many middle-class working women starting to use it voluntarily. It came to be some oppositional women's way of expressing the revolutionary "demand for respect and dignity", rather than a sign of backwardness. Unveiled women came to be seen by some of the opposition as victims of Westoxication, "a super-consumer" of products of Imperialism, a propagator of "corrupt Western culture", undermining the "morals of society". The revolutionary advocacy for the poor and the tradition brought chador back to popularity among the opposition, and women from different classes wore hijab for different reasons, including to protest treatment of women as sex objects. It was no longer considered a hindrance, but empowerment enabling access to public spheres without facing sexual harassment. Unlike in the past, thousands of veiled women participated in religious processions alongside men when they also expressed their anti-Shah protests.
- Goharshad Mosque rebellion
- Human rights in the Imperial State of Iran
- Pahlavi dynasty
- The Culture of Nakedness and the Nakedness of Culture
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