Oscar-winning actors Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche, as well as other French music and screen stars, filmed themselves cutting their hair in a video posted Wednesday in support of the protesters in Iran.
“For the sake of freedom,” Binoche said as she cut some hair off the top of her head with scissors before waving it at the camera.
The video, tagged with the hashtag HairForFreedom, shows Iran being engulfed by anti-government protests. They were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.
Some Iranian protesters have publicly cut their hair at rallies, and the gesture has gone viral.
Images of women elsewhere cutting their hair in solidarity with Iranian women have gone viral – from Turkish singer Melek Mosso on stage last week, to women in Lebanon and Syria, to Swedish lawmaker Abir Al-Sahlanion in the hall of the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday. A museum in Rome is collecting curls to donate to the Iranian Embassy.
Dorna Javan, an Iranian political scientist based in France and specializing in Iran, said: “Letting women cut their hair in Iran is a form of protest … a symbol against being forced to cut their hair in Iran. wear a headscarf. Such a visual gesture is a way for women around the world to rally around the plight of Iranian women, she added.
Video of Cotillard, Binoche and dozens of other women cutting their locks was posted to an Instagram account, “soutienfemmesiran” – which means “supporting women in Iran”.
“These women, these men are asking for our support. Their courage and dignity compel us,” a post accompanied the video.
“We’ve decided to answer our call by cutting – so do we – some of these locks.”
Some of the other women involved included actors Charlotte Rampling and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who were also filmed cutting a lock of hair on the head of her mother, singer Jane Birkin.
This highly symbolic gesture also echoes Iran’s history and folklore, in which women cutting their hair is a sign of protest. The Shahnameh (“Book of Kings”), a national epic of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi between 977 and 1010 AD, mentions a princess who cut her hair in protest. The husband’s death was considered unjust.
“Women cutting their hair is an ancient Persian tradition also found in Shahnameh, when rage was stronger than the strength of the oppressor,” Shara Atashi, an Iranian writer living in Wales wrote on Twitter.
Researcher Javan described it as a “gesture of mercy” and called for stronger political action from the international community to support the Iranian protesters.
“We cannot reduce the fight of Iranian women for their rights – which dates back to the second half of the 19th century – to the act of cutting their hair,” she said. “But these viral videos are a way to make an international impact for their fight.”