Category: activism

Why Iranian women are wearing white on Wednesdays:

A new social media campaign against a law which forces women to wear a headscarf is gaining momentum in Iran.

Using the hashtag #whitewednesdays, citizens have been posting pictures and videos of themselves wearing white headscarves or pieces of white clothing as symbols of protest.

The idea is the brainchild of Masih Alinejad, founder of My Stealthy Freedom, an online movement opposed to the mandatory dress code.

Before the 1979 Islamic revolution many Iranian women wore Western-style outfits, including miniskirts and short-sleeved tops, but this all changed when the late Ayatollah Khomeini came to power.

Women were not only forced to cover their hair in line with a strict interpretation of Islamic law on modesty, but also to stop using make-up and to start wearing knee-length manteaus. More than 100,000 women and men took to the streets to protest against the law in 1979, and opposition to it has never gone away.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

The Cutting Edge of Human Rights | Alex Gladstein | SingulartyU South Africa

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Researchers Examine The Psychology Of Protest Movements:


And so if you are taking part in a protest, is your message getting out? Are you having an impact? It turns out what you think is happening might not be reality. And let’s talk about that with NPR’s social science correspondent, Shankar Vedantam, who’s back in our studios. Hey, Shankar.


GREENE: So what are these researchers actually testing here?

VEDANTAM: Well, the researchers wanted to study what happens when people protest. We all have intuitions about the effectiveness of protests, and protesters certainly have those intuitions as well. This was an attempt to actually measure whether those intuitions were accurate. I was speaking with Robb Willer. He’s a sociologist and psychologist at Stanford University. Along with his colleagues, Matthew Feinberg and Chloe Kovacheff, Willer found that many protesters tend to equate being effective with getting a lot of attention from the public and the media.

So they wanted to test if this was true. They presented volunteers with different kinds of protests. Some were at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally. Some of the protests involved people just simply holding up signs and chanting slogans. But others involved what Willer calls extreme tactics. Protesters used violence. They blocked people from assembly. They blocked traffic. Willer measured the effects of the different protest tactics on the volunteers.

ROBB WILLER: What we found was that the extreme protest tactic led people to report increased support for Trump. So this would be consistent with the idea that exposure to an extreme protest event risks creating a public opinion backlash where people actually turn away from your cause even if they might have supported it otherwise.

GREENE: Extreme anti-Trump protests where they were, you know, like, breaking things actually caused volunteers who were watching this to support Donald Trump. So the protesters were not getting done what they wanted to.

VEDANTAM: Exactly. And now, certainly the people who felt this way included Trump supporters. But what was interesting is they also included people who were Trump opponents and people who were neutral. Compared to milder protest tactics, volunteers of all political stripes became more inclined to support Trump when they saw the protesters use extreme tactics. Willer thinks this is because when people see a protest, they ask themselves whether they can see themselves identifying with the protesters. He explains what happens inside the minds of the audience.

WILLER: I might have agreed with their cause, but the way they’re doing it is not the way I would have done it. And so I think that’s the risk with extreme protest tactics, is they lead people – observers, bystanders – to answer that question – am I like those people? Should I go join them? – in the negative where they might have said, yeah, I am like them. I’m going to join that movement.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Facebook is social ‘media’ – time it started acting like it:

Facebook has recently been criticised for banning arguably the most iconic photo from the Vietnam War. The photo depicts children, including the naked Kim Phuc, fleeing from a US napalm attack.

A Norwegian newspaper covered the story and criticised Facebook for its indiscriminate editorial interventions. It also reproduced the famous photo, which they shared on the newspapers’ Facebook page, Facebook subsequently demanded to “either remove or pixelize” the image.

This is turn prompted Espen Egil Hansen the editor in chief of the Norwegian newspaper Afternposten to write a front page editorialvoicing his anger about the decision but also touching on a few relevant and important tensions and contradictions inherent to Facebook as a social media platform.

My own take on this debate regarding editorial responsibilities of Facebook is that Zuckerberg’s claim that Facebook is not a media company, but a tech company, a neutral tool, is utterly false. Facebook is of course a media company, as much as it is a tech company. The clue is in the name, it is social “media”, not social “tool”. It is high time that Facebook accepts this, as well as the important democratic responsibilities that come with it.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

My Stealthy Freedom:

In Iran women have to cover their hair in public according to the dress rule enforced after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. My Stealthy Freedom is an online social movement where Iranian women share photos of themselves without wearing the hijab.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

Human Rights Foundation –

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.

HRF unites people in the common cause of defending human rights and promoting liberal democracy. Our mission is to ensure that freedom is both preserved and promoted around the world.

We focus our work on the founding ideals of the human rights movement, those most purely represented in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), and the 1976 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

We believe that all human beings are entitled to:

  • Freedom of Speech and Expression
  • Freedom of Self Determination
  • The Right to Equal Treatment and Due Process Under Law
  • Freedom From Slavery and Torture
  • Freedom of Association
  • The Right to Leave and Enter Their Countries
  • Freedom From Interference and Coercion in Matters of Conscience
  • The Right to Acquire and Dispose of Property
  • Freedom From Arbitrary Detainment or Exile
  • The Right to Worship in the Manner of Their Choice
  • The Right to Be Able to Participate in the Government of Their Country

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

‘Flash Drives for Freedom’: How smuggled western media could take down Kim Jong-un:

Balloons are one way to get information into the Hermit Kingdom, but Gladstein says the vast majority of the flash drives make their way to the Chinese border and then cross into North Korea through the flourishing black markets of the country’s underground economy.

The North Korean government has executed peoplefor possessing what it views as illicit, foreign content. But people are willing to pay a week’s wages for the USB drives on the black market.

According to Gladstein, defectors say that what they are seeing changes their lives.

“The majority of them have come into contact with foreign media, and they have displayed a huge interest,” Gladstein says. “The North Koreans who escaped have told us that this is transforming society.”

He says even in Pyongyang, where the regime is most controlling and has the most support, there are signs of change.

“Western reporters who are brought in to the capitol — into this highly choreographed, you know, sort of stage setting — even they can see little cracks.

"I mean, they can see people wearing jeans, they can see people speaking a little bit differently, wearing maybe South Korean haircuts [or] having jewelry or some sort of accent on them that shows a little bit of colour and individuality.”

“So even in the heart of the regime, you’re starting to see some change.”

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.

This Iranian activist fights for women’s rights not to wear hijab. But Donald Trump has complicated her effort.:

When Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and human rights activist living in exile in Brooklyn, started her online campaign two years ago encouraging women in her home country to post photos of themselves in public without their headscarves, it was a powerful statement for gender equality.

At great personal risk, thousands of Iranian women have defied the law and removed their hijabs in defiance.

A movement that celebrates women’s freedoms would seem like an obvious one for public support. But lately in the United States, it’s been a challenge for Alinejad to get active endorsements. Sure, some celebrities have tweeted about her effort. And it’s received a lot of positive international media coverage. But people are afraid to be too vocal, she said, because they don’t want to appear anti-Islamic in the era of Donald Trump.

“The atmosphere that [Trump has] created in the United States put us in trouble as well when we want to talk against Islamic restrictive laws. Because people now don’t want to touch the sensitive issue of compulsory hijab because they think it’s a cultural issue and they don’t want to be seen as [aligned with] Donald Trump,” she said in a recent interview. “They want to stand with minorities here. A Barbie wearing a headscarf can make news. In the U.S., it shows you’re tolerant, you’re open-minded, you’re not like Donald Trump.”

But to Alinejad, her effort has never been about being anti-hijab or anti-Islam. Her parents are religious. Her mother proudly covers her head. It’s about giving women the freedom to choose either way.

She has a dream that one day her mother may visit her in the United States and they can walk side by side, her mother in her hijab, and not have to worry about Trump wanting to kick her mother out of the country. And she dreams that she can return to Iran, where she surely would be arrested, and walk shoulder-to-shoulder with her mother, her hair flowing freely, without fear of getting in trouble.

“It’s two extremes — and women in the middle are stuck because if we talk loud against Islamic restrictive laws, then people think we’re supporting Islamaphobia,” she said. “But if we keep silent then we have to forget about our own identity and obey all the discriminatory laws.”

Alinejad has never been one to sit quietly on the sidelines.

Digital Human, Series 13. Episode 1 – Resist.