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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 (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 a deep wound in the Iranian politics. One of the enduring legacies of Reza Shah has been turning dress into an integral problem of Iranian politics.
In 1936, as part of a Westernizing crusade, Reza Shah banned the veil. This move was welcome by the Westernized upper class. 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 such embarrassing 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, which was Western par excellence. 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]
Western historians often state that this would have been a progressive step if women had indeed chosen to do it themselves, but instead, this ban humiliated and alienated many Iranian women, since its effect was comparable to a hypothetical situation in which European women were suddenly ordered to go out topless into the street. Historians often point that Reza Shah's ban on veiling and his policies are unseen even in Atatürk's Turkey, and some scholars state that it is very difficult to imagine that even Hitler's or Stalin's regime would do something similar. The arbitrary decree by Reza Shah was criticized even 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 Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameneh'i, the policy was aimed at "eradicating the tremendous power of faith" in Muslim societies that was enabled by decency of women, as hijab prevented Muslim women from suffering from "malicious abuse" that affects women in the West and causing people to be 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 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 a women's way of expressing the revolutionary demand for respect and dignity, rather than a sign of backwardness. Unveiled women came to be seen 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, 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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