This is a great story from so many perspectives…

Last Tuesday, Iranian state-affiliated Fars News Agency reported that student activist leader Majid Tavakoli, who had been arrested after speaking at a campus demonstration the previous day, had been wearing women’s clothing when taken into custody. Fars published photographs of Tavakoli in a light blue headscarf and black chador, saying he had put them on in an effort to avoid arrest.

Movement figures condemned the story and photos immediately. They said that eyewitnesses agreed that Tavakoli had been dressed in his usual jacket and slacks when arrested, and charged that the government had forced him to put on women’s clothes in an effort to humiliate him. The photos themselves, which showed a sullen and heavily stubbled Tavakoli (left), seemed to support their account.

Here’s where the story gets really interesting.

Opponents of the regime assailed the photos as not just an attack on Tavakoli, not just an attempt to divide the movement, but also an insult to Iranian women. In light of this, one activist put out a call on Facebook:

“To prove that we are behind Majid Tavakoli, to prove that there is nothing wrong with female clothing and the only thing that’s wrong is the compulsory wearing of hijab whether it is forced on the women of this country or upon Majid Tavakoli, to show that we are all together, post your picture in hijab!”

And they did.

Hundreds of Iranian men took up the challenge. The Free Majid Tavakoli event page on Facebook now has more than 500 photos in its album. There are funny photos, serious photos, touching photos — and not a few sexy photos — of men and boys (and some mustachioed women) wearing headscarves and/or the chador.

As one Iranian activist put it, “the story of Majid Tavakoli is the story of centuries of women’s oppression in Iran … of those who view women and all things associated with women in a humiliating manner.”

Today’s Iranian activists are rewriting that story in a thrilling way.

Update: Over on Twitter, @redjives pointed me toward this amazing piece, which situates the headscarf protest in the context of Iranian history, the history of revolution, and the history of gender and feminism. Seriously, go read it.

That piece also features this great photo and quote from Hamad Dabashi, a Columbia professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature whom the post describes as holding “the oldest and most prestigious Chair in his field:”

“Proud to wear my late mother’s rusari, the very rusari that was forced on my wife in Iran, the very rusari for which my sisters are humiliated if they choose to wear it in Europe, and the very rusari that the backward banality that now rules Iran thinks will humiliate Majid Tavakoli if it is put on him — He is dearer and nobler to us today than he ever was.”