While the government in Iran seems incapable to stop fierce protests, hardliner religious leaders on Friday doubled down on enforcing hijab for women.
At the same time, a few members of the parliament and have admitted that dress code enforcement by Iran's hijab patrols (nicknamed by foreign media as morality police) has been problematic.
Karim Hosseini, a member of parliament (Majles) has said that the government should not ignore Mahsa Amini's death in custody that triggered the protests, with the pretext of defending the police force. Shahryar Heidari, a member of the Majles National Security Committee also said that the government should stop the hijab police's activities adding that the police force should not be used to clamp down on "bad hijab".
Meanwhie, Seminarian Ayatollah Ali Akbar Massoudi Khomeyni has told reporters that "the hijab police's treatment of Iranian woman is against the teachings of Islam," adding that "Only judges can rule about the hijab, but even they cannot tell a woman that your hijab is not consistent with the dress code and punish them." This comes while protesters’ demands have gone far beyond their grievances about hijab and apparently, they will not settle for anything less than a regime change.
However, hardliner Friday prayers Imams in various cities, who receive their marching orders from a central office controlled by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, insisted in their sermons that the hijab police should remain in place with permission to use force against women.
Ayatollah Alamolhoda (C) with President Raisi (L) and Ali Khamenei. Undated
The firebrand Friday Prayers imam of Mashad, Ahmad Alamolhoda said: "Hijab is the most important issue in Islam. The enemies of Islam wish to promote a lifestyle without hijab." He charged that previous governments have ignored the importance of hijab but added that "since 2006 some 20 organizations have been established in Iran to promote the idea of hijab." Meanwhile, he praised the police force as the pivot of the authority of the regime for upholding hijab," without mentioning the murder of Mahsa Amini.
Alamolhoda said in his sermon that "women's hair corrupts young men just as half-naked women can do."
In Tehran, Ahmad Khatami who led the prayers on Friday, criticized monarchists and the supporters of Mojadein-e Khalq organization for "supporting a woman," meaning hijab victim Mahsa Amini. Meanwhile, Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib attributed the protests against Amini’s killing to "the enemies" without making clear who the enemies were. However, his statement was vague and general, as he deliberately tried not to make any categoric assertions before Khamenei expresses his opinion about the nationwide protests.
Commenting on the situation, Tourism Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami reassured the government and supporters of the hijab police in a September 23 tweet that "revising some of the laws and inefficient approaches" that have annoyed the protesters "will not lead to a domino-like collapse of the regime."
Reformist analyst Mohammad Reza Tajik commented that the protests over police brutality have revealed the naked image of the regime. Tajik wrote that although the government will come up with some superficial solutions, trying to keep the foundations of the regime in place, wide gaps have emerged in Iranian society that make it difficult to conceal the crisis.
Tajik stressed that the current situation is dangerous as there is no serious sign to indicate that the regime has understood the situation, and there seems to be no determination to address the root causes of the crisis.