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These Iranian Women Are Defying The Ayatollah By Riding Their Bicycles In Public


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They say they are protesting against a statement by the Supreme Leader, who said cycling is a threat to "women's chastity."

Earlier this month, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that women were not allowed to cycle in public or in the presence of strangers.

"Women riding bikes in public and in front of strangers often attract the attention of men and it exposes society to deception and seduction. It is against the pure status of women and should be abandoned," the office of Khamenei told Fars News Agency, a semi-official organ considered close to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. "However, it is allowed if it is not practiced in front of strangers."


So women are using the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling and posting photographs of them on a bicycle.

Instagram: @masih

The hashtag was started by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist who lives in New York, who urged women in her country to share images of themselves cycling.

"I strongly believe that these acts will bring change. Women are the main agents of change and as they push for equality we see greater push back from the Islamic Republic," Alinejad told BuzzFeed News.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the group "My Stealthy Freedom," which is run by Alinejad, wrote: "Today, the supreme leader of Iran has issued a fatwa (a religious edict) in which he ruled that riding bicycles for women is a sinful act. How do you view this fatwa? How do you think Iranian society will respond to this fatwa?

In one of the videos, a mother and daughter from Tehran are seen riding their bikes.

Facebook: video.php

The mother and daughter said when they heard about the fatwa they "immediately rented two bicycles to say we're not giving up cycling."

The debate over women who ride their bicycles first came into the spotlight when environmental groups in Iran began organizing "car-free Tuesdays" to encourage people to leave their cars at home, in hopes cutting down on pollution.

But when women were seen taking part in the campaign by using bicycles to commute, some Iranian clerics were not pleased.

In July, a group of women in the country’s northwestern city Marivan were stopped by the police while riding bicycles and required to sign pledges not to repeat the "violation," Iranian media reported.

In another video posted on Facebook, a woman filmed herself cycling, and said biking is not a taboo for women.

Stealthy Freedom / Screengrab

"Hello, we finished biking in the city just now. We were nine people, two more joined us in our path," she said in the video.

"We were two women, the rest were men. No one protested against us today because there were men with us … But when I got a bit farther than the men in the group, I heard people saying nasty things about me biking. But I do not worry nor have any fears, as I am sure the prohibition of biking for women will be lifted in coming years."

"On that day, I will be proud that I did resist the oppression, as I believe those who oppress us are wrong."

Aisha Gani is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Aisha Gani at

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