Members of Islamic Republic parliament in July 2020

Iranian Lawmakers Divided Over How To Treat Protesters

Tuesday, 10/18/2022

As protests in Iran are well into their fifth week, some Iranian lawmakers are diagonally divided over the government's approach to handling the unrest.

While the protests have gone far beyond the issue of hijab and turned into full-fledged antigovernment demonstrations and clashes with security forces, some lawmakers defiantly insist on hard-line approaches to hijab and call for heavy-handed crackdown on protests while others seem to be seeking ways to pacify the situation by trying to convince others to accept peaceful demonstrations.

Ultraconservative cleric Mojtaba Zolnouri a member of the Iranian parliament from Qom told Asr Iran website that "women who do not cover their hair should be sentenced to 74 lashes." He claimed that "A notice served by the morality police will not be enough for women who take off their hijab."

Zolnouri, who is a member of parliament's National Security Committee, criticized other lawmakers for questioning the morality police and said that Iranians should not question the rationale behind its mission. He charged that lawmakers who criticize the morality police are disturbing the public's peace of mind.

According to Asr Iran, the morality police has filed complaints at the Judiciary to take critics at the parliament to court over their condemnation of its performance.

In another development, hardliner lawmaker Mousa Ghazanfarabadi told ISNA that that women who violate compulsory hijab rules should be identified using face recognition technology and subsequently deprived of social rights. Ghazanfarabadi further tried to justify use of force in "dealing with women who violate compulsory hijab rules outrageously."

An Iranian woman shot by 'bird shots' fired by security forces from a shotgun had 187 pellets in her body

Meanwhile, as most of the complaints about violent behavior of security personnel have been about plainclothes agents, lawmaker Hossein Nushabadi said in an interview with Rouydad24 website that "Plainclothes officers have nothing to do with women or protesters in general unless they come under attack." However, he did not say why these officers do not wear uniforms so that everyone knows who they are.

Although Noushabadi claimed that plainclothes officers do not attack people, he did not rule out the presence of "rouge elements" among them and acknowledged that some of the protesters have been killed or wounded by these rouge elements. However, he refused to say how can people differentiate between plainclothes officers and rouge elements. Armed plainclothes officers are seen in many videos of the protests on social media.

In his defense of the protesters, however, Noushabadi called on the government to determine certain places where people can go for peaceful protests without fearing repression by security forces or plainclothes officers. Calls like this have been made time and again during the past 30 years, but no practical measure has been taken by the government.

In another development, lawmaker Mohammad Hassan Asafari told ILNA in an interview on Monday that "No permission from the government is needed for holding protest gatherings. He said that the Majles has tabled a motion to make the officials accountable for the security forces' mistreatment of the protests.

The right to protest is recognized in Article 27 of the Iranian Constitution but various Iranian governments in the past four decades have refused to uphold this right and respect the Constitutional Law. The only conditions set in the law for taking part in protest movements are that demonstrators should not be armed, and the protest should not be against the essence of Islam.

According to Asafari, it is difficult to convince the government about the people's right to protest unless powerful political parties are formed in Iran.

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