Amnesty International has decried Iran’s new hijab law that will impose “draconian penalties” and increase prison terms and fines for defying compulsory veiling.
In a statement issued Thursday, Diana Eltahawy, the human rights group’s deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa said, “This bill is a despicable assault on the human rights of women and girls that will further entrench violence and discrimination against them in Iran.”
Earlier in the week, Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf announced that the bill was approved for a "three-year trial run" following coordination and a written confirmation by the judiciary. The contentious bill's content was finalized by a committee of approximately 10 lawmakers making the best use of an obscure regulation known as Article 85. The only aspect voted upon was the duration for the trial implementation.
Article 85 of the constitution enabled the parliament to effectively sideline opposition by restricting discussions on the bill to an internal committee. The committee's decisions are set to be sent to the Guardian Council, whose members are chosen by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. If the council deems the decisions to be in line with the Constitution, they will be implemented throughout the country. Legal experts say the hijab bill violates not only civil rights but also the Constitution and requires vast resources beyond the government’s means.
Eltahawy said that the new regulations will further “exacerbate the already suffocating surveillance and policing of women’s bodies, ”mandating the Islamic Republic’s various political, security and administrative bodies to “obsessively observe compliance with compulsory veiling laws and control women’s and girls’ lives.”
Initially comprising only 15 articles, the "Hijab and Chastity" bill was sent to parliament by the administration of Ebrahim Raisi. It has since expanded to include 70 articles. The bill was proposed after months of nationwide protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in police custody last year, allegedly for breaching hijab rules.
The uprising sparked by the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini in September 2022 has made it increasingly difficult for the clerical regime to enforce the mandatory Islamic dress code. Since the beginning of the ‘Women, Life, Freedom’ movement, tens of thousands of girls and women have shed their compulsory hijab. The regime seeks to criminalize hijab defiance, but no branch of government wants to solely shoulder the responsibility for complications of such a provocative and risky action in society.
Amnesty International's Eltahawy further described the bill as an "all-out assault," meant to "crush the spirit of resistance among those who dared to stand up against decades of oppression and inequality as part of the 'Women, Life, Freedom' popular uprising."
She also called on the global community to pressure the Islamic Republic's authorities to revoke the bill and abolish all degrading and discriminatory compulsory veiling laws and regulations, stating that the world must "pursue legal pathways at the international level to hold Iranian officials accountable for ordering, planning, and committing such widespread and systematic violations against women and girls."
Human rights advocates have warned that the bill's implementation could lead to “increased violence, harassment, and arbitrary detentions of women and girls in Iran.” Both the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the UN's Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran have issued statements this month expressing their concerns over the potential consequences of this bill on the rights and freedoms of Iranian women.