Iranian Media Breaks Custom by Printing Bare-headed Tributes to Late Mathematician

As her death shocks the country, Tehran newspapers and President Rouhani slight Iran's modesty rules to publish Maryam Mirzakhani's image 'the way she was'

A picture taken in the capital Tehran on July 16, 2017 shows the front pages of Iranian newspapers bearing portraits of the top female scientist Maryam Mirzakhani, who died of breast cancer a day earlier at the age of 40. The Iranian-born mathematician became the first woman to win the coveted Fields Medal in 2014.
A picture taken in the capital Tehran on July 16, 2017 shows the front pages of Iranian newspapers bearing portraits of the top female scientist Maryam Mirzakhani, who died of breast cancer a day earl ATTA KENARE/AFP

The death of renowned mathematician and Fields Medal recipient Maryan Mirzakhani on Saturday particularly shocked those in her birth-country of Iran. Tributes to Mirzakhani, the first and only woman to receive the prestigious award, were featured overwhelmingly on newspaper headlines in Tehran, and as reported by the AFP, many publications broke with tradition and published her image without a head covering.

Laws in Iran require women to be covered in public, but the death of such a prominent figure seemed to have propelled an exception. Among other prominent publications, the Sunday front page of state newspaper Hamshahri featured a full profile of Mirzakhani without hijab.

Maryam Mirzakhani at a press conference after the awards ceremony for the Fields Medals

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said "the grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heartrending,” retweeting an image of Mirzakhani bare-headed.

The 40-year-old had breast cancer, which had spread to her bones. She was the first and only woman to receive the prestigious Fields Medal for her work on complex geometry and dynamical systems in 2014. The distinguished prize, often nicknamed as the "Nobel Prize for Mathematics," is only awarded every four years to between two and four mathematicians under 40.