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Iranian newspapers break hijab taboo in tributes to female math genius

Iran’s newspapers on Sunday broke with the country’s strict rules on female dress to show the mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani with her head uncovered, as the country mourned the death at the age of 40 of the woman known as the queen of mathematics.

Tributes were led by the president, Hassan Rouhani, who posted a recent picture of Mirzakhani on Instagram without a hijab.

“The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heartrending,” he wrote.

Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor, died in hospital in California on Saturday after cancer in her breast spread to her bone marrow. The university president, Marc Tessier-Lavigne, said Mirzakhani’s influence would live on in the “thousands of women she inspired” to pursue maths and science.

When in 2014 she became the first woman to win the Fields medal, often described as maths’ Nobel prize, Iranian newspapers digitally retouched Mirzakhani’s photograph to put a scarf over her head while others published a sketch showing only her face. Iran’s strict laws on female dress require all women to be covered in public.