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Iranians asked #Where_Is_She? Suddenly, it seems she's everywhere

An Iranian woman who removed her headscarf in public to protest the theocracy’s Islamic dress code apparently has sparked a bold trend in Tehran, the capital.

Several images appeared on social media Monday purporting to show women standing atop benches and telephone utility boxes and waving hijabs just like the iconic demonstrator who was arrested last month.

At least one of the demonstrators and a person photographing her were arrested, according to witnesses.

A burgeoning movement is challenging the compulsory hijab law, which requires women to cover their hair in public. It is part of a raft of social codes instituted after the 1979 Islamic Revolution that reform-minded Iranian women say are outmoded and infringe on freedom of choice.

Critics of the law had been wearing white clothing on Wednesdays for months before a dark-haired, sneaker-wearing woman stood in Tehran’s bustling Enghelab Square in late December and waved her white hijab on the end of a stick.

She was arrested, and she became one of the icons of the anti-government protests that would sweep Iran a few days later. A social media campaign dubbed #Where_Is_She sprang up to demand information about her fate.

But her identity was not publicly known until days ago, when human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh said she had been told by a court that handles alleged cultural offenses that the woman was released from custody.

Sotoudeh identified the woman as Vida Movahedi, a 31-year-old mother of a 20-month-old child. It was not immediately clear whether Movahedi had been charged with a crime. Iran’s state-controlled news media have not covered the story.

On Monday, with parts of Tehran still dusted with the remnants of a weekend snowfall, several women were photographed mimicking her protest.

One stood in the same spot as Movahedi, wearing a green ribbon that likely identified her as a supporter of the opposition Green Movement whose leaders are under house arrest.

A second was spotted in bustling Ferdowsi Square north of the British embassy, standing on a telephone box.

Yet another stood in Vali Asr, a busy commercial area in central Tehran, dangling a black scarf on a fishing rod like a piece of bait.

“The message of these citizens is clear,” Sotoudeh said. “We, the women and girls, are fed up with this compulsory hijab. We want to manage our clothing and what to wear.”

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Special correspondent Mostaghim reported from Tehran and Times staff writer Bengali from Mumbai, India.

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

Shashank Bengali covers Iran for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @SBengali

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