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Source: NBC News

Apr 18, 2023

Iran tries to reimpose strict dress codes for women and girls that many disregarded during the Mahsa Amini protests

The hijab became a symbol of official repression after the 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian's death following her detention for allegedly breaking the nation's laws governing dress.

By Aina J. Khan and Amin Khodadadi

Iran is attempting to reimpose strict dress codes months after a wave of unrest following the death of a young woman who had been detained by morality police saw women and girls remove their headscarves in protest.

The moves came as the government tries to reassert control after months of the sometimes violent nationwide demonstrations posed the biggest challenge to the clerical establishment since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Over the weekend, thousands of text messages were sent to business owners and drivers, reminding them of the renewed crackdown on women not wearing hijabs, the head coverings worn by some Muslim women, according to the Iranian state broadcaster IRIB News.

Officials also announced that people who encourage women to remove their hijabs would be prosecuted.

“The crime of promoting unveiling will be dealt with in the criminal court whose decisions are final and unappealable,” Deputy Attorney General Ali Jamadi said Saturday, according to the semiofficial Mehr News Agency.

The chief commander of Iran's police forces, Ahmad-Reza Radan, recently announced a set of procedures that came into place Saturday.

Stores in which female employees do not wear head coverings will first receive a warning, and could face closure if the employees do not comply, he added.

A woman stands on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way toward Aichi cemetery in Saqqez, Mahsa Amini's hometown in Iranian Kurdistan, on Oct. 26.via Twitter / AFP - Getty Images

Following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian, in a hospital Sept. 16 after being detained for allegedly breaking the laws governing dress, the hijab became a symbol of official repression, with women and girls defiantly removing their headscarves in public.

The unrest has been largely quelled by force and mass arrests, and the government had spent a few months building up to its renewed emphasis on women's dress codes.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi underlined the importance of the dress code, in particular the headscarf, in a recent speech in Tehran.

The headscarf is a “religious necessity,” he said, according to a video posted on Twitter by the government's public affairs office.

“Today, the issue of hijab is a legal matter, and all members of our society should adhere to the hijab, as they have been so far,” Raisi said at the event April 1.

The renewed emphasis on the hijab was announced April 8, with implementation beginning over the weekend.

The plans were met with criticism from some Iranian women.

“This harsh and rude response will definitely either make things worse or will not lead anywhere,” Parinaz Mobarhan, a resident of Tehran, told the West Asia News Agency in video distributed by Reuters.

“The hijab is a voluntary matter,” said another resident, Nasiri, who only provided one name. “The person herself has to decide whether they want to have this scarf around them or not. I think forcing this will yield the opposite result.”

Women wearing hijabs cross the street in Tehran .Fatemeh Bahrami / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Among the most obvious rules governing the population's behavior were those based on the conservative establishment's interpretation of Islamic dress codes.

Morteza Aghatehrani, a hard-line member of the Iranian Parliament, said that the hijab was “appointed by God,” and that it was an old law that was in need of revision.

“The Parliament, government and judiciary are currently discussing this,” he told NBC News, adding that it “needs serious changes so it could be implemented.”

The hijab has been obligatory for all women in Iran since the early 1980’s.

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