Iran’s hardliners launch campaign against ‘improper’ dress
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Every year, as the weather warms up, the Iranian morality police come out in full force to patrol the streets and stop women they judge as being dressed too seductively. Despite a new, more moderate president, our Iranian Observers expect this summer’s crackdown will be even harsher than in previous years because the country’s hardliners have launched a massive campaign to denounce examples of “immodest” dress.
A photo of a woman without a headscarf that published by Iranian media outlets close to the country's hardliners.
Every year, as the weather warms up, the Iranian morality police come out in full force to patrol the streets and stop women they judge as being dressed too seductively. Despite a new, more moderate president, our Iranian Observers expect this summer’s crackdown to be even harsher than in previous years, because the country’s hardliners have launched a massive campaign to denounce examples of “immodest” dress.
Over the past few weeks, hardliner-affiliated websites and media outlets have published strange photographs of women in a variety of situations considered improper. One shows a woman driving a motorcycle – which, while not illegal, is a rare sight in Iran – who supposedly caused a traffic accident because she was “too distracting”.
The motorcyle rider that supposedly caused an accident due to her "impropriety".
Another, reportedly taken in the streets of Karaj, a city just west of Tehran, shows a woman walking around topless. There is no mention of whether the woman may have had any mental health issues, nor have local residents confirmed such a sighting. A local prayer leader was quoted in hardliner media as demanding that action be taken against these immoral acts, which he attributed to the negative influence of Western culture.
The photo of the topless woman, supposedly taken in Karaj. The photo was blurred by the Iranian media that published it.
Moreover, numerous banners in the street and in hardliner media are exhorting women to wear modest clothing as a protective measure, comparing them to pistachios without their shells, or expensive cars without their covers.
This banner reads, "My girl, it's the law. The more something is valuable, the more it must be protected."
The woman wearing a headscard that covers her hair is compared to a precious car that needs a cover to preserve it. The woman wearing a headscarf low on the back of her head is compared to an inexpensive car.
On Monday, the Interior ministry, which oversees the morality police, announced that it had come up with a special plan to combat improper clothing this summer, without giving any further details. There are no specific guidelines as to what constitutes improper clothing, but morality police have been known to take offence to such things as tight coats, short pants, leggings, sandals, nail polish, and headscarves worn low on the back of the head.
“I don’t think the change in government is going to make any difference”
Sanaz, 30, has been arrested by the morality police in the past.
Throughout the year, women are wary of the morality police. But we know where their stations are located, and are careful to pull up our scarves or otherwise adjust our clothing when we have to walk by them. During the summer, though, there are a lot more mobile units. It’s excruciating. Unfortunately, I don’t think the change in government is going to make any difference. Changing the police chief might have had more impact than changing the government! [Editor’s Note: The country’s top police chief, who the morality police report to, is appointed directly by the Supreme Leader, who is a hardliner.] These crazy pistachio banners make me worry that it’s going to be even worse than usual this year.
Still, I believe it is the president’s job, as chief of the government, to defend our civil rights. That’s why we voted for him. The government must stop the morality police from unlawfully arresting people, especially women, and treating them like criminals. [Editor’s Note: Iran's laws do not specify what types of dress are banned]. If there is a crackdown on women’s clothes, this may affect Rohani’s popularity, especially among young women. But overall Iranians are more concerned with the economy, so if he succeeds on that front, he should be OK.
"Hardliners are pushing this campaign to try cause Rohani to lose support among those who voted for him”
Mahboubeh, 32, also voted for Rohani.
We all know that the morality police have nothing to do with the civil administration, so we shouldn’t be nagging the government about it. It’s been like this for decades and people who voted for Rohani thinking they would get more lax dress laws were surely hallucinating. I think the hardliners are pushing this campaign to try cause Rohani to lose support among those who voted for him. The hardliners may not be very numerous, but they concentrate a lot of power and own many media outlets, so this is an unwinnable battle.
Post written by FRANCE 24 journalist Ershad Alijani (@ErshadAlijani).