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Source: Washington Post

Apr 17, 2023

Iran steps up enforcement of mandatory hijab for women

By Miriam Berger

Iranian authorities plan to prosecute people who encourage women to remove their headscarves and have also installed cameras in public places and on highways to catch violators of the country’s strict dress code, according to local media and a senior judicial official.

As part of the effort to step up enforcement, police sent thousands of messages to businesses and car owners warning them to comply, a spokesman told state media on Sunday.

Iran’s police chief announced last week that the cameras would be installed, saying women caught without headscarves — or hijab — would first be warned and then face unspecified charges. Additional cameras, including on roadways, were installed Saturday, local media reported.

The country’s deputy attorney general also warned Saturday that prosecutors would charge those who urge women to take off the veil, which is compulsory in Iran.

“The punishment for the crime of promoting and encouraging others to remove the hijab is much heavier than the crime of removing the hijab itself,” Ali Jamadi said, according to the Mehr news agency, adding that it was a clear example of “encouraging corruption,” a crime in the Islamic Republic.

He did not say what the punishment would be, only that the offense would “be dealt with in the criminal court whose decisions are final” and not subject to appeal.

The moves are part of a wider crackdown on women who have flouted the law on dressing conservatively and follow a months-long protest movement started in part by the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by morality police in Tehran for alleged violations of the dress code. She died in police custody, prompting an outpouring of anger and nationwide demonstrations against Iran’s clerical leaders.

Women protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by the morality police, in Tehran last October. (AP)

Security forces killed some 500 people in the ensuing crackdown, according to the activist news agency HRANA, and detained more than 20,000. In February, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, announced a broad amnesty for certain prisoners, and in March, Iran’s judiciary announced that some 22,000 people arrested during the protests were pardoned.

But rights activists say the government provided no confirmation that all of the detainees were released. To qualify for the amnesty, some protesters had to post bail or sign papers apologizing for their alleged crimes, according to rights groups and several recently pardoned prisoners who spoke with The Post.

According to Shiva Nazarahari, an activist who works with the Volunteer Committee to Follow-Up on the Situation of Detainees, an informal network inside Iran, the pardons were issued in part to ease international and domestic pressure on authorities over the crackdown. They were also announced to help Iran’s already overcrowded prisons cope with the influx of thousands of new detainees, Nazarahari said.

But even as authorities sought to calm the unrest and release some prisoners, they also stepped up enforcement of the mandatory dress code for women, including in schools, on university campuses, at businesses and in public places.

From March 6 to April 5, for example, authorities closed at least 458 businesses — including recreation centers, hotels and restaurants — because employees or customers were wearing “improper” hijab, according to HRANA.

Earlier this month, a video went viral of a man dumping yogurt on the heads of a mother and daughter, one without a veil and one whose hair was partially covered, in a shop in the city of Mashhad. In the footage, taken by a security camera, the shop owner is then seen chasing the man out.

Prosecutors charged both the man and the two women, the latter for not complying with the conservative dress code, state media reported.

Police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi told the state news agency IRNA on Sunday that law enforcement had recorded “hundreds” of cases of unveiled women traveling in cars over the previous 24 hours — and had sent text messages to the vehicles’ registered owners. The report did not say where the alleged violations took place or if the cases were recorded using the new cameras.

Mahdi also said police had closed 137 shops and grocers and 18 restaurants for repeated violations of the religious dress code, and had sent out messages to some 3,500 businesses warning them to comply.

Earlier in the week, the Mizan News Agency, which is affiliated with Iran’s judiciary, published an announcement reminding the public that under the law, cars are not considered private spaces in which women can remove their hijabs.

Mahdi said those who ignore the initial warning will have their cars impounded.

By Miriam Berger

Miriam Berger is a staff writer reporting on foreign news for The Washington Post from Washington, D.C. Before joining The Post in 2019 she was based in Jerusalem and Cairo and freelance reported around the Middle East, as well as parts of Africa and Central Asia.Twitter

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