The government in Iran is intensifying social restrictions, including closing cafés and detaining women for “improper” hijab, reports on social media indicate.
Latest news received from the southern historic city of Shiraz say that security forces and ‘morality police’ shut down several cafés and are pressuring others to strictly enforce hijab rules. The same process is taking place in other cities, including Tehran.
The hijab or morality police have also expanded patrols in streets, stopping women they believe are not wearing their headscarves properly or for other dress code violations. These law enforcement units are all accompanied by special vans, and they push women into these vehicles for further questioning, admonishment, or arrest.
There have been many recorded incidents in recent months showing women resisting the morality police who use force to push them into their patrol vans. One journalist in Tehran tweeted on Monday that morality police are using new tactics to convince women to enter the vans without making a bigger scene in public. Reportedly, authorities while they have decided to harass citizens are also concerned about a backlash and incidents that could lead to street protests.
A video that went viral on June 23 showed dozens of teenage boys and girls in Shiraz congregating in a park and mingling freely, which is forbidden according to the Islamic rules in the country. Most of the girls had no headscarves and the incident turned into a major issue.
The government immediately announced that the organizers of the gathering were arrested while many ordinary Iranians on social media expressed satisfaction that teenagers defy the religious rules.
One Shiraz resident complained on social media that authorities are taking away what little exists for relaxation and socializations, by closing down cafés.
Another viral video on Sunday [June 26] showed a woman screaming profanities at a cleric who stopped her in a supermarket to admonish her for inadequate hijab. Some on social media commented that clerics do not object to doubling and tripling of prices in a matter of weeks but are upset by hijab infringements.
Young people in Tehran are also complaining about increasing pressure on café owners not to force clients with loose headscarves to cover their heads properly. There are also reports about taxi drivers telling women to cover themselves properly, out of concern that they would be stopped by the police.
In recent weeks, the economic situation in Iran has deteriorated with prices of daily necessities doubling and tripling almost overnight and protests breaking out around the country.
No one knows if the enforcement of strict religious rules is related to the authorities trying to show force, but some citizens see the effort as a scheme to pit people against one another.
Massoud Jafari, a café owner twitted that he is constantly harassed by morality police who walk in anytime they want and accuse him of running a business promoting “prostitution”, insulting him and his customers.
Last week, 120 people touring a nature reserve were arrested and accused of dancing and drinking alcohol.
There is also pressure on female singers who entertain in private wedding parties. One local prosecutor in Hormozgan province on Sunday announced the arrest of four female singers. “If these acts continue, both the performers and persons organizing the wedding party will be arrested,” he announced.