On July 26, 2023, the Iranian authorities in the last month have launched an intensive crackdown against women who deemed to violate the Islamic Republic’s strict dress rules, said Amnesty International.
Iran was convulsed for months after persistent and unprecedented protests that sparked in September 2022 caused by the death and arrest of a Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iranian moral police for not wearing the Hijab properly and breaking the rules of the Islamic dress code.
In the wake of the protests, some Iranian politicians argued and called for the loosening of the regulations and even abolishing the morality police, but these were never confirmed. But with the intensity of protests diminishing over a couple of months, Amnesty International reported that the Iranian authorities resumed a crackdown on women who do not adhere to the dress rules in April 2023
“The Iranian authorities are doubling down their oppressive methods of policing and punishing women and girls to quell the widespread defiance of degrading and discriminatory compulsion veiling laws,” Amnesty International said.
Before the Iranian revolution took place, the country was ruled by a secular king Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. During his rule, Iranian women actively wore the Hijab. They used to wear it for a variety of reasons, such as tradition, identity, and religious expression.
After the Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979, it became compulsory for Iranian women to wear the Hijab. The government draws on parts of the Quran (Holy Book of Islam) and Hadiths (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) to justify the policy, even though Muslim religious writings are not entirely clear about whether women should veil.
Iran is a heterogenous society comprising Persians, Kurds, Azerbaijanis, Arabs, Balochi, Turkmen and Lurks and Gilakis. Each community has its own traditional clothing, and they wear the hijabs in different ways, switching colours, patterns and styles.
According to the Iranian poet and author Asieh Amini, the main problem today is that women are now being forced to veil, and if they do not comply, they are subjected to lashing and imprisonment.
The main agency involved in the strict enforcement of the Iranian dress code is the “Gasht-e-Ershad,” which translates to guidance patrols. They prowl the roads and streets in special vans, and they detain, capture, and beat women who violate the dress code. Despite the threats of arrest, millions of women actively oppose the Hijab, often wearing it loosely around their heads and shoulders.
The Iranian authorities have gone to the extent of saying that those women who do not adhere to the prescribed rules will have their cars would be confiscated. Countless women have been fired from universities, exams, and offices for not wearing the Hijab. They were also denied public transport and banking services. The crackdown has been intensified by mass surveillance technologies.
In addition to these measures, the authorities have drafted the “Bill to Support the Culture and Chastity and Hijab.” The introduction of this bill is seen by women as an attempt to intensify and further codify the crackdown.
Under this proposed legislation, women and girls who appear without headscarves in public spaces and the social media or those who wear tight clothing and nakedness of body parts will face a catalogue of penalties that will severely impact their human rights and social and economic rights as well. These include monetary fines, confiscation of vehicles and communication devices, driving bans, salary deductions, reduction of employment benefits, dismissal from work etc.
The bill proposes a range of sanctions against athletes, artists and other public figures defying veiling laws, including bans on engagement in professional activities, imprisonment, flogging and fines.
According to Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, “The international community must not stand idly by as the Iranian authorities intensify their oppression of women and girls.
The response coming from the international states should not be limited to forceful public statements and diplomatic interventions but must involve the pursuit of a legal path to hold Iranian officials accountable for ordering, planning, and committing widespread and systematic human rights violations against women and girls through the implementation of compulsory veiling practices.
All the governments must do everything they can while in their power to support women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution and serious human rights violations in Iran.”