APACC expands understanding of hijab with Iranian activist keynote


Collegian | Reuel Indurkar

Masih Alinejad, Iranian-American journalist and author, speaks on women’s rights activism in the Lory Student Center at Colorado State University April 3.

Hania Nini, Staff Reporter

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, activist, author and one of Time magazine’s Women of the Year in 2023, spoke April 3 at Colorado State University.

She discussed the issue of compulsory hijab in Iran and her advocacy for individual choice. Alinejad, who is known for her campaign against the Iranian government’s mandatory hijab law, talked about how the regime uses the hijab as a tool for oppression.


Alinejad insisted on the importance of holding social media companies accountable for their role in promoting free speech.

“Dictators who are not allowing their own people to use freedom of speech must be kicked out of social media,” Alinejad said.

Toward the end of her talk, she also clarified a misconception that people in the West usually have about Iranian people.

“We, the people of Iran, do not want the Western governments to save us,” Alinejad said. “We want them to stop (saving) our murderers.”

The event was organized by the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center at CSU. The method of contacting Alinejad for the event was through her publicist team, organized by students who wished to bring her for the talk, said Hiba Abdeljalil, a student success coordinator for APACC.

Abdeljalil said their role was to facilitate understanding of the complexity of the hijab and help navigate conversations around the issue.

Abdeljalil noted that Alinejad’s campaign is not about removing the hijab entirely but rather advocating for individual choice.

“When people think of compulsory hijab, they assume that it means that everyone should not wear it,” Abdeljalil said. “Alinejad is more fighting for choice.”

They added that Alinejad’s focus on taking off the hijab is due to the punitive actions taken by the Iranian regime against those who do not comply with the law. Alinejad’s goal is to remove the tool the regime uses for oppression, which in turn will help change the regime itself.


“She says that compulsory hijab is not fair and that there needs to be freedom,” Abdeljalil said. “There needs to be choice.”

As someone who wears the hijab as a choice, Abdeljalil introduced Alinejad at her speech, which showed that her advocacy is not against the hijab itself but rather against the mandatory imposition of it on women in Iran.

To help understand this idea better, APACC organized a “Chai to Understand the Hijab” event before Alinejad’s talk to help attendees understand the nuance of the hijab and the complexities of the issue. Reham Abdunabi, the Southwest Asian and North African student organization‘s president, was one of three people who gave a presentation.

“Before Masih Alinejad came, we did a presentation to give background information about hijab for people who are unaware of it to show that wearing it is also a choice,” Abdunabi said.

To both Abdeljalil and Abdunabi, having Alinejad give a talk at CSU was important to promote diversity on campus. 

“It shows that some minoritized identities that we have on campus have stories that should be heard,” Abdunabi said.

To Abdeljalil, Alinejad’s speech is a way to show Iranian students that they are supported and seen.

“One of the things that we are trying to do with APACC is to increase visibility of the Southwest Asian and North African community because they never had a student center for themselves,” Abdeljalil said. “It is the same thing with Iranian students.” 

To Abdeljalil, raising awareness about the ongoing situation in Iran is crucial.

“I do not want people to forget what is happening in Iran, and also I want people to see more perspective of global feminism as well,” Abdeljalil said. “I am hoping to continue this conversation.”

The event was not without challenges, as Alinejad has received numerous death threats in the past, making safety a top concern for the organizers, Abdeljalil said. To ensure everyone’s safety, the event was private, and the CSU Police Department was involved in the planning process. There were metal detectors, bags were not allowed and every attendee needed a ticket.

Reach Hania Nini at life@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.