As is usual each summer, Iran is cracking down on women who do not fulfill the authorities’ definition of hijab compliance.
Iran’s “morality police,” known in Iran as the Guidance Patrols, Gasht-e Ershad, and constituting an entire department of Iranian police, is cracking down on citizens whom it views as disobeying its demands for Islamic “chastity,” Al-Monitor reported on Saturday.
Not only law enforcement, but also “self-appointed vigilantes and religious traditionalists, who are not commissioned by the government but feel empowered by its discourse, also approach women on the street to aggressively correct their dress code compliance,” Al-Monitor reported.
Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the Islamist regime made hijabs mandatory for women, and it severely punishes anyone whom it deems to be disobeying that mandate. Every year, hundreds of women are arrested for not dressing in accordance with the Iranian morality police’s requirements.
According to Iran’s Islamic Penal Code – as Iran is governed according to Muslim sharia law – not dressing in a sufficiently Islamic way can lead to a sentence of up to two months in prison for women.
“Iranians say official crackdowns on women deemed to be dressing immodestly happen in most years, usually in summer,” NPR reported recently. This year, coinciding with the Iranian regime’s so-called Hijab and Chastity Day, hundreds of women posted videos of themselves removing their hijabs and showing their hair, something that is considered a crime.
One of the Guidance Patrols’ most vicious recent attacks was in late April, when former Iranian boxing champion Reza Moradkhani was shot four times by officers for trying to defend his wife, whom the police accused of not being veiled and wearing a short-sleeved shirt, something that she has denied.
According to the family’s lawyer, such dress, in addition to landing her in prison, could also lead to a punishment of 74 lashes. The story only reached the media in June. The Iranian regime recently introduced new regulations to boost surveillance of female employees at government agencies, adding a rule that administrators whose female staff do not abide by the hijab regulations sufficiently will be fired. For that purpose, the government has allocated $3.8 million to the Initiative for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, a powerful religious entity.
“Making hijab mandatory for all means that the regime governs your most private realm and is present everywhere,” Elham Gheytanchi, an associate sociology professor at Santa Monica College, told Al-Monitor. “If it had to do with religion, it would have been a private matter between women and their God. But the Iranian government has declared itself as the force of God and their legitimacy depends on it.”
In 2017, human rights lawyer Nemat Ahmadi said the government spends $193 million on hijab-related promotional activities every year.
“We often hear how families themselves, especially the males, enforce a system of command and control on female members of their families, sometimes using more aggressive behaviors such as domestic violence, honor killings and so on, and there are no strong reactions against such inequalities,” Zahra Tizro, a senior psychology lecturer at the University of East London, told Al-Monitor.
She said that many Iranian women try to resist the hijab but find no support in their families.
“It seems to me that religious traditionalism is deeply rooted and entrenched in cultural and social discourses and practices,” she said.
In further evidence of the authorities’ crackdown, five people were arrested in Shiraz in late June for organizing International Go Skateboarding Day, where an online video showed boys and girls mixing in Western-style clothes and showing their hair.
In Iran, young boys and girls are not allowed to mix and girls as young as 9 years old are required to wear a hijab.
“People abroad are responsible for organizing these events and are paid for it,” Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the attorney general of Iran, said.
As a consequence of the gathering, the director of the local branch of the Iranian skateboarding federation was fired and cafes and bookstores popular with young people in the area were closed down by authorities.