A long exposure image shows Iranians walking through Tehran Bazaar, in Tehran, Iran, February 1, 2023.

Iran Renews Oppressive Measures As Hijab Crackdown Continues

Thursday, 03/16/2023

The country’s parliament is planning a raft of new repressive measures in further crackdowns on hijab rebels, including increased surveillance and cutting access to social services.

Bijan Nobaveh, Tehran's representative and a deputy at the cultural committee, admitted that as protests show no signs of abating, more repressive measures are ahead, with the approval of the administration and judiciary.

Increased state-wide surveillance will add further oppression to the country’s suffering population. “Identification of women without hijab in public spaces will be done through surveillance cameras, and punishment will be done according to the prepared tables [guidelines],” he said, though this is widely done already.

Women seen in public without their Islamic headscarf, required under regime law, have been seen multiple times being beaten by brutal security forces.

Further crackdowns to communications are set to come too, after months of internet shutdowns have blighted the country, including millions of women working from home who are now forced back into poverty. New punishments tabled include blocking mobile phones and internet of women who appear in public without hijab.

The announcement this week also reiterated threats against owners and operators of shops, malls and tourist attractions who do not confront women without headscarves. The Islamic Republic has closed down several businesses in the heavily touristic cities of Esfahan (Isfahan) and Kashan as well as in the capital Tehran in recent days, demanding management not allow access for uncovered women.

It is not yet clear how much money the regime, which is already bankrupt, is going to spend on the necessary technologies for such measures.

The new crackdowns come as no surprise. Before the unrest which began in September, triggered by the death in morality police custody of Mahsa Amini, there has long been talk of using cameras to identify women flouting the mandatory hijab rules, part of efforts by President Ebrahim Raisi’s hardliner administration to intensify pressures on women in society throughout the year.

In December, another member of parliament’s cultural committee, Hossein Jalali, said that hijab enforcement will never be abolished, ensuring that “veils will be back on women’s heads within two weeks.” Confirming that the regime is making some changes in enforcing hijab rules, he added that “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 in the third stage, the bank account of the person who unveiled may be blocked."

Iranian women appearing in public without headscarves has become a common sight across the country. Celebrities keep publishing photos and videos of themselves defying the regime and scuffles with security forces are still seen across social media on a daily basis.

While some politicians have demanded an end to compulsory hijab and laws that legalize discrimination against women, there are many others who have been talking about new methods and punishments to enforce hijab.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered an ambivalent speech about hijab in January, saying hijab is an inevitable duty for all Muslim women, but no Iranian woman should be labeled as non-religious if she fails to fully honor the Islamic dress code.

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.

Protests seems to have resulted in police being unable to confront the large number of women unveiling in public with its usual ferocity and the regime’s hardliners are worried that warmer weather in spring and summer would lead to more women defying the country’s strict hijab rules.

Firebrand Cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda -- who is President Ebrahim Raisi's father-in-law -- said earlier in the month that “the regime is no longer powerful enough to stand against women who defy compulsory hijab,”. Imam Mohammad-Nabi Mousavifard also said in February that the authorities should approve new laws to deal with women who do not observe hijab “otherwise women will come to the street naked this summer”.

On Tuesday evening, hours after the parliament session on enforcing the hijab, thousands of young Iranians took to the streets in several cities, dancing with their hair flowing freely and burning headscarves and photos of Khamenei. They came out to mark the ancient Iranian annual fire festival and used the occasion to vent their anger at security forces.

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