An Iranian woman without mandatory hijab showing a victory sign in front of a mural of Revolutionary Guards Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani

Iran's Strict Hijab Law In Limbo Ahead Of Elections

Thursday, 11/09/2023
Maryam Sinaiee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

An Iranian lawmaker has alleged that the Woman, Life, Freedom protesters wanted to promote “nudity” in Iran and emphasized that hijab will be strictly enforced.

“There are stringent laws regarding hijab. We will confront those who do not comply with the rules of hijab and deal with them,” Ahmad Rastineh told Rouydad 24 news website Wednesday.

Rastineh, who is a member of the ultra-hardliner Paydari Party, which was behind a recent hijab bill, claimed that observance of hijab has improved in the past couple of months in comparison with the time that followed last year’s nationwide protests. Rastineh is a member of parliament’s cultural committee.

The bill, approved by the parliament last month, faced an unexpected rejection from the Guardian Council, a potent constitutional body responsible for vetting all legislation. The Council returned the bill to the parliament for amendments, citing formal shortcomings in the text, including the ambiguity of terms like “unchastity” or “corruptness.”

Lawmaker Ahmad Rastineh

Some analysts viewed the Council’s rejection as an effort to refine the legislation for greater precision, dismissing any correlation with public discontent. Others speculated the Council might be wary of escalating public dissatisfaction before the upcoming parliamentary elections in March, possibly seeking to postpone its final approval.

Rastineh’s remarks over the matter seem to confirm the authorities’ fear of causing further alienation among the population.

"Some misinterpretation hindered the law's implementation. Some believed it would polarize Iranian society and lead to division. They assumed there was substantial demand for freedom in women's dress code, but we observed it was only a minority," asserted Rastineh, accusing authorities of succumbing to the "psychological propaganda" of those opposing mandatory hijab.

The reality on the ground contradicts Rastineh’s claim that abidance by hijab has improved. Images posted on social media suggest more and more women appearing in public across the country without covering their heads despite being often targeted by hijab enforcers and other consequences including loss of their license to work.

Many celebrities who had removed their hijab during the Woman, Life, Freedom protests have refused to wear it again even at the cost of being banned from working.

Not only women who wore the hijab in public to stay away from trouble, but also some women who had always covered their heads and even worn the long black veil by choice, are now saying they no longer believe in it.

Among the latter was a former state television presenter, Fatemeh Kia-Pasha, who used to appear on air wearing the ‘chador’ long veil.

Kia-Pasha who had not been on air for a couple of years, about a year ago began posting photos and videos of herself on Instagram wearing headscarves that covered all her hair.

In a post two weeks ago, the twenty-six-year-old former presenter said she had been wearing the chador by choice but no longer believes in it. The reason she still wears the headcovering in the photos she posts on her Instagram page is out of respect for her mother who believes in the necessity of wearing the hijab, she wrote.

While Kia-Pasha does not appear to have flouted the hijab as a political statement, other women such as Sedigheh Vasmaghi, a prominent Islamic scholar and politician, have stopped wearing the hijab in public as a strong political and religious statement.

Vasmaghi, 63, recently removed her headscarf after decades and even challenged Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s hijab edict, by arguing that there is no foundation in the Quran or the Sharia for such an edict.

Khamenei said emphatically in an April 4 speech that “based on Sharia and also politically”, discarding hijab is haram (sinful).

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