Right when many say the Islamic Republic is showing signs of revisionism about mandatory hijab rules, the regime announces new methods to enforce them.
Following an ambivalent speech by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei earlier this week, stopping short of clearly setting out a policy regarding the enforcement of hijab, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf (Qalibaf) criticized the police over their harsh treatment of women with loose hijab.
Describing hijab as the inevitable duty for all Muslim women, at the same time Khamenei had emphasized that no Iranian woman should be labeled as non-religious or anti-revolutionary if she fails to fully honor the Islamic dress code.
During a TV program that aired January 5, Ghalibaf said "What right do we have to say that we don't let a woman ride the subway when she is not wearing hijab properly?"
Describing the issue as polarizing, he said that both extremes of no Islamic dress code and harassing women for hijab “benefit the enemies.”
Signaling a sign of retreat, Ahmad Alamolhoda, a senior firebrand cleric who is President Ebrahim Raisi's father-in-law, said earlier in the week that people cannot be forced to adopt the culture of wearing hijab. It is certain that police measures will not do job because it is not possible to teach people what is right just by harsh and negative actions, he said, noting that it is not possible to make hijab a culture with threats and arrests, there should be a clear and comprehensive plan for that.
Last year in March, the staunch hardliner had urged people to reproach women with poorly-fitting hijab to stop “debauchery.” “If a woman in the street removes her headscarf, she must face the complaints of the people to see that she has no place…In such a case, you can be sure that she will wear even two scarves."
The hardliner cleric's apparent retreat from his harsh position seemed to come after Khamenei sounded a bit more lenient about those who are not observing hijab according to the ideals of the regime.
It was forcible enforcement of hijab in the streets that triggered popular protests in September -- the boldest challenge the Islamic Republic has ever faced.
The Islamic Republic faces a dilemma: Allowing people to wear whatever they desire in public means the utmost failure of the regime's ideology, while enforcing hijab with strict punitive measures can only lead to further resentment in society. Now, the three branches of the Islamic Republic’s government are mulling over new methods to enforce hijab.
Reformist Shargh Daily said Thursday that new measures include banning those who unveil from leaving the country, imposing fines, denying employment, and community service as well as restrictions on using public services.
Apparently, these are parts of the measures that the parliament is considering for hijab enforcement.
On January 1, 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.
Defending the decision, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi told Rouydad24 website Friday that “Observance of hijab is a legal issue and one of our religious values. Most of our women also observe this issue.”
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."