Maryam Mirzakhani is breaking all sorts of new ground today. She's the first woman to win the Fields Medal (the highest honor in mathematics) and today Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted two photos of Mirzakahani to congratulate her. One photo, of Mirzakhani without a headscarf, is being hailed as a major step forward for the rights of Iranian women.


According to The Huffington Post, the photo that Rouhani tweeted of Mirzakhani is groundbreaking because it aligns with his vision of a softer Islam and the idea that women who do not wear headscarves can still be seen as and considered virtuous. As HuffPo points out, not wearing a headscarf has not been a choice in Iran since 1979 and being seen without one can result in extreme punishment, such as imprisonment or lashings. Just this May, actress Leila Hatami was the subject of controversy when she appeared at Cannes wearing a scarf that covered her neck, but not her head.

While Rouhani is not Iran's supreme leader, his support of Mirzakahani is being hailed as an important moment in Iran's history.