Hijab and the First Woman Fields Medal Winner

As I’ve already told you on this blog, Maryam Mirzakhani is the first woman and the first Iranian to win the highly reputable math prize the Fields Medal. Now of course the interesting part is how the Iranian media reacted to this event.

The answer is, the most contentious thing was her hijab. Yes, the concept of hijab became the center of attention.

Now, some of the papers opted for the easy way out, printing a picture of her from the time she was still in Iran and had to wear hijab.


This is Iran, the government’s official paper.

Some others went for cropping the image:


And some went for artistic graphic:


So, the more conservative or centrist papers went with a hijabi photo, and Iran was the only newspaper following their lead. This means that they didn’t want to acknowledge her choice not to wear hijab and they censored her voice. This is very bad.

But the most radical conservative papers like the infamous paper Kayhan didn’t mention the news on their first page at all – meaning that they don’t really care for the success of women at all.

Reformists didn’t pretend that she is a hijabi, and found ways to bypass the ban on showing Iranian women without hijab. Which is respectable.

But the most interesting thing was done by Rouhani himself:


So, a picture with hijab and one without?

It seems that like always, Rouhani is taking one step ahead of what’s permissible in Iran on certain issues, stating implicitly that it doesn’t matter if women wear hijab or not. But the fact that his own administration’s newspaper went with the safer option shows the limits of his power, and how although he might be personally progressive on this issue, not even his own administration is equally progressive.

The whole point is this: An Iranian woman wins a great prize, and what really happens is that the deep rifts in political areas are made visible, those who believe in choice, those who don’t, those who want women to be successful and those who don’t. It’s ultimately about women’s position in society.

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