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Iranian woman arrested for cycling without a hijab

An Iranian woman was arrested in the central Iranian city of Najafabad yesterday on charges of “insulting the Islamic hijab”

An Iranian woman was arrested yesterday for cycling without wearing a hijab.

She was arrested in the central Iranian city of Najafabad yesterday on charges of "insulting the Islamic hijab," according to local media reports.

"A person who had recently violated norms and insulted the Islamic veil in this region has been arrested," Governor of Najafabad, Mojataba Raei, told the IRNA news agency.

The arrest comes after a video of a young woman cycling through the city's main square and in front of a mosque with her hair on show circulated on social media on Monday.

In the video the unidentified woman, who has shoulder-length brown hair, can be seen raising her right arm in the air as she rides pass a mosque.

It was not immediately clear what the significance of the gesture was.

IRNA said the video sparked an angry backlash from residents and clerics in Najafabad.

"The residents of this city are holding a protest rally today (after) the unprecedented violation of norms," Najafabad's governor told the broadcaster.

Adding that the incident was being investigated and that the woman would face questioning over "her motive for committing this action".

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Under Iran's Islamic laws, all women must cover their head and neck, concealing their hair, with a hijab.

Over the past 20 years, women have increasingly pushed against the provision, allowing their veils to slide backwards and reveal more hair, especially in Tehran and other major cities.

However, women still face backlash for failing to adhere to the strict Islamic dress code.

In January, a picture of Shohreh Bayat, 32, supposedly wearing her hijab around her neck during the Women's World Chess Championship emerged online.

Bayat maintained that she was wearing the hijab as she always has at international tournaments, despite disagreeing with the rule, but Iranian media claimed she was rebelling against the country's Islamic laws.

The 32-year-old, who is the only Class A chess arbiter from Asia, later said she did not want to return to Iran for fear of retribution and has since sought asylum in the UK.

"There are many people in prison in Iran because of the headscarf. It's a very serious issue," Bayat told the BBC at the time.

"I can't think of any Iranian women who have worked at such a high-level tournament. But the only thing that matters to them is my hijab, not my qualification. That really bothers me," she added.

Earlier this year, Iran's only female Olympic medallist, Kimia Alizadeh, 21, defected from the Islamic Republic.

The 21-year-old said in a statement online that she had left Iran in part because she was fed up with the mandatory dress code.

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