A woman with headscarf stopped by morality police and being asked to go into police van in Tehran

Iranian Official Says 300 Anti-Hijab ‘Ringleaders’ Arrested

Monday, 09/05/2022
Maryam Sinaiee

British Iranian journalist and political analyst

An Iranian government entity enforcing Islamic rules says the intelligence ministry has arrested 300 anti-hijab activist “ringleaders” working “for the enemy.”

Ali Khan-Mohammadi, spokesman of the Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil Headquarters, said Sunday the activists who worked for “the enemy” and “combated the Islamic Republic’s hijab rules in various ways” were arrested in concurrence with the implementation of the Hijab and Chastity Regulations in government offices, he added.

He did not provide more details, but some social media activists and women who removed their headscarves in public as a sign of protest have been arrested since mid-July.

Hardline media say implementation of the Hijab and Chastity Regulations will soon be more strictly applied in other establishments such as shopping centers. Authorities are also giving more power to law enforcement, security guards in public parks, as well as ordinary citizens to admonish those whose appearance does not conform with the prescribed dress code.

Although the government says “admonishment”, but special morality police scouting the streets actually arrest women for violating the Islamic dress code.

Harsher than usual enforcement of the hijab in the past few months has raised protests from many in Iran including some moderate religious and political figures.

In early July President Ebrahim Raisi ordered the implementation of stricter regulations. He put an ideological spin on the issue and accused foreign enemies of the Islamic Republic and Islam of using extensive satellite TV and social media networks to “target the society’s cultural backbone and foundations of its religious values.”

Sepideh Rashno, a woman arrested for lose hijab forced to denounce herself on national TV. July 31, 2022

Khan-Mohammadi, a low-ranking cleric, also alleged that “the enemy” conducts intensive cultural activities against the hijab, including through importing goods and clothing that are against the society’s Islamic norms, and thanked security and intelligence forces for neutralising such plots.

There is no evidence of any foreign conspiracy, except some Iranian activists in the West campaigning against compulsory hijab. One such activist in the United States was even reportedly targeted for kidnapping or assassination by Islamic Republic agents.

The staff of the Enjoining Good and Forbidding Evil Headquarters are trained and responsible for admonishing or detaining citizens, particularly women if Islamic regulations, including hijab rules, are ignored or not abided by.

In the past few months women and anti-hijab activists have come under such intense pressure that even many women who wear the hijab by choice have joined a social media campaign against forced hijab and hijab enforcement street patrols.

Sepideh Rashno, a 28-year-old artist and writer, for instance, was arrested because of an acrimonious dispute with a hijab enforcer in a city bus on July 16 and posting a video of her quarrel with the hijab enforcer on social media which went viral.

She was tortured into denouncing herself and other activists, expressing regrets for her confrontation with the hijab enforcer, and posting the video on social media.

Rashno has not been put on trial yet, but her so-called “confessions” were aired by the state-run television (IRIB) soon after her arrest. She had been so badly beaten before the telecast that bruises were quite visible on her face.

Rashno has been charged with “association and collusion with the intention of committing a crime against the country's security through communication with foreigners and propaganda activity against the Islamic Republic and encouraging people to commit corruption and prostitution" and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”. Authorities have set Rashno’s bail at a very high sum of 8 billion rials.

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