Kurdish men from the Marivan County in the Kurdistan province of Iran have launched a cross-dressing campaign to redress outmoded concepts of masculinity and femininity.
Over the last week, over 150 Kurdish men have posted photographs of themselves in women’s clothing to campaign against the sexist nature of a court sentence which led to the public humiliation of a man by dressing him in women’s clothing.
The campaign, entitled Kurd Men for Equality is a response to a sentence given to a convicted man by the Marivan County tribunal court on 15 April. The campaign's tagline reads: ‘Being a woman is not a way for humiliation or punishment.’
According to Saman Rasoulpour, the convicted man was paraded down the streets of Marivan in a red tchador (traditional Kurdish women’s clothing).
Rasoulpour stated that public humiliation is a common punishment for troublemakers.
Rasoulpour told us: ‘[In] this way, authorities are able to both demean the accused and deliver a warning to the public.’
However, Rasoulpour emphasized: ‘This is the first time in Iran that an accused is paraded in women’s clothes in the streets to humiliate him. It is unprecedented anywhere in Iran.’
In response to the judge’s sentence, a local feminist organization of Marivan called the Marivan Womens' Community held a protest against the misogynistic punishment. The protest brought one hundred women on the streets of Marivan in a civil resistance campaign for gender equality.
In solidarity with the women’s protest, a man named Massoud Fathipour posted a photograph of himself dressed in women’s clothing. According to Rasoulpour, ‘he ignited the spark’.
Since the Kurd Men for Equality campaign has been launched on 18 April, it has quickly gained an international following of over 7,000 fans. Over 150 men have submitted photographs of themselves in women’s clothing to emphasize the message that being a woman should not be considered humiliating.
In parliament 17 Iranian MPs have signed a petition addressed to the Justice Ministry which decries this sentence as ‘humiliating to Muslim women’.
Supporters of the campaign have written messages in support of the gender equality on the Facebook wall.
Ala M writes: ‘For many years, women in my country have been side-by-side with men, wearing men’s clothes, struggling. Tonight I am happy and honored to wear women’s clothes and be even a small part of the rightful struggle of people to express gratitude and excellence to the women of my country.’
Another supporter, Namo Kurdistani writes: ‘We should gather together and condemn this stupidity, brutality and inhumanity against women. This is the least I can do to support women.’
In one of the protest images posted on Facebook, two LGBT rainbow flags can be seen on the wall in the background. People have commented on the image supporting homosexuality.
Women have also supported the campaign by posting photographs of themselves wearing men’s clothing.
Iran claims it treats transgender people well but an expert told GSN the punishment in this case also indicates the stigma and discrimination trans people still face in the country as well as being a sign of simple sexism.
According to Rasoulpour, no public apology has been made by authorities and security forces in Iran have strongly criticized the campaign.