As the Holy Month of Ramadan starts, Iran's police have warned there will be strict punishments for those caught eating in public during fasting hours.

Every year police enforce a national plan to deal with those who break Ramadan rules in public, and transgressors are sometimes sentenced to months of detention and lashes, but in most cases they are released after a few days. Last year dozens of businesses were closed by the government for violating the rules.

Iran’s police command issued a statement on Wednesday warning there will be serious consequences including arrests and fines to people breaking "Islamic rules" and eating during fasting hours, especially in public spaces such as parks, gardens or vehicles.

The statement also warned hotel and restaurant managers, terminals, airports, and railway stations that they can provide services to passengers only "if they cover their space in such a way that it cannot be seen from the outside".

In addition to avoiding certain actions mentioned in the Qur'an, Muslims must abstain from food or drink of any kind from dawn to dusk, which will be about 14 hours in Iran this year.

The vocal warnings were met with criticism by Iranian lawmaker Mojtaba Tavangar, who criticized the "politicization of fasting" by regime officials.

Ramadan fasting began Thursday in Iran but a declining number of Iranians observe the traditional fasting period. As the population becomes more secular, less Iranians feel as committed to the rigid traditions of Islam, which the regime tries to impose on their lives.

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