The protests in Iran continue daily in many locations but the regime perceives a simple act of civil disobedience as alarmingly damaging to its foundations.
The current wave of protests threatening the Islamic Republic started in mid-September after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in custody of the country’s hijab police. In the months that led to the tragic incident hardliner President Ebrahim Raisi had been intensifying measures over the observance of mandatory hijab in public, which many urban women were barely following.
However, the measures apparently backfired and led to many campaigns of removing hijab in public in protest to the mandatory Islamic dress code. Moreover, after the death of Mahsa Amini, appearing in public without hijab has become a very popular way of protest, especially in bigger cities. Now the regime seems frustrated over its inability to impose hijab because every measure makes people angrier. But the clerical rulers and their religious followers cannot tolerate the growing phenomenon.
Following the recent propaganda stunt by the government claiming that the ‘morality police’ was disbanded, media are full of interpretations of how the regime plans to both enforce the dress code regulations and at the same time appease protesters. Iran's police declined to confirm Prosecutor General Mohammad-Jafar Montazeri’s claim on December 3 that the notorious "morality police" was deactivated.
Hardliners say hijab enforcement will never be abolished, insisting that “veils will be back on women’s heads soon,” while acknowledging that a growing number of women are appearing in public without hijab. A lawmaker said in December that the regime is making some decisions about hijab rules, explaining that the methods for enforcing hijab may change. He added “it is possible that women who do not observe hijab would be informed via SMS, asking them to respect the law. After notifying them, we enter the warning stage... and last, the bank account of the person who unveiled may be blocked."
Ali Khan-Mohammadi, the spokesperson of Iran’s Headquarters For Enjoining Right And Forbidding Evil
On Sunday, Fars news agency, affiliated with the hardliners and the IRGC, cited an unnamed police source as saying that a new phase of a plan to enforce hijab has started across the country. The news agency also confirmed reports that many people had received warnings via SMS about removing hijab in their cars.
Also on Sunday, Ali Khan-Mohammadi, the spokesperson of Iran’s Headquarters For Enjoining Right And Forbidding Evil, tasked with promoting the Islamic Republic’s interpretation of Islamic laws, defended the government’s move to shut down and seal businesses that serve women who are not observing the Islamic dress code.
In recent days, a large number of lawmakers and other officials have called for plans to deal with women who unveil. Among these plans for facial identification of those without hijab using CCTV cameras and refusing them social services. In some cities, people without hijab have been prevented from entering some banks and other institutions. In addition, some bank managers have been fired for providing services to women without hijab.
Last week, the Islamic Republic’s prosecutor-general threatened Iranian women again, saying unveiling in public is an act “planned and promoted by enemies,” and described it as a “crime.” Montazeri said one of the “enemies’ plots” in the past few months was breaking the norms and redlines of the Islamic regime. He went on to threaten that people who unveil will be strictly confronted.