Controversy has erupted in Iran after hardliners demanded specifically designed gowns conforming to hijab rules to be made compulsory in hospitals and operating rooms.
Twelve versions of Islamic surgical gowns have been designed for female patients in the operating room to comply with Sharia rules, announced Mohammad-Hossein Taheri-Akerdi, the secretary of a state body responsible for promotion of Islamic standards, whose main concern has always been promotion of hijab.
Taheri-Akerdi said Tuesday that the standard clothing currently worn by patients in hospitals violates women’s “dignity” and responsible government bodies have been instructed to identify the standards of religiously required and forbidden aspects in respect to “hijab and chastity” in hospital environments.
The entity that Taheri-Akerdi represents is a state-funded organization with a budget of 1.25 trillion rials (around $2.5m) in the current fiscal year, with an increase of 125 percent compared to the previous year. An even higher budget is expected to be allocated to the organization for the next year.
Not only those who oppose the compulsory hijab, but also many religious people are against the various measures that religious fundamentalists are employing to enforce the hijab rules.
“One feels like standing in front of a hidden camera and waiting for someone to say that this [situation] is just a joke, but no, these are Taheri-Akerdi’s exact words,” a commentary by Mostafa Danandeh a regular contributor to the conservative Asr-e Iran news website said.
“I don't know how upsetting the reading of these news must be for patients and their families who are dealing with the problems of finding their medication, hospital admission and its costs these days. They see that there are people in this country who are looking for Islamic surgical clothes instead of worrying about availability of medicine and the conditions of hospitals,” he wrote.
He added that he thinks the entity that seriously needs reform is the same organization that needlessly tries to impose obscure religious standards and trying to anger people with its decisions.
Some clerics and Islamic scholars such as Ayatollah Seyed Mohammad-Ali Ayazi, a member of a reformist clerical association in Qom, have also criticized the demand for Islamification of hospital gowns.
In an interview with Salamat News (Health News) Thursday, Ayazi criticized fundamentalists and said from the religious point of view demanding Islamic hospital gowns to be designed is a matter of minimal importance when both doctors and patients must deal with such serious problems as shortages of medicine and equipment.
Some media and social media users have pointed out that there may be a hidden agenda in the official’s declaration about unsuitability of current hospital gowns and need for designing Islamic ones.
“But the point that has not been paid much attention to is this story’s economic aspect like the open and hidden financial dimensions of government measures in regard to hijab clothing … and in whose pockets the profits find their way?” a commentary in Faraz Daily, a news website, wrote Saturday.
Faraz Daily mentioned in its article that there are no official data on the market turnover of hijab clothing such as fabric for making the long black veils, called chador in Persian, that is largely imported.
The article also pointed out that the secretary of the Cultural Council said in September 2022 that the black veil was “an essential commodity” and said the government must encourage importing fabrics for the veils by lowering import tariffs. In addition, when a commodity is listed as essential, importers can receive foreign currency from the government at preferential lower rates. This practice has been a major source of corruption in recent years.
A black veil made with imported fabric can cost as high as 20m rials ($400), with the cheapest ones made with domestically produced fabric costing around one-third of that.