A woman looking at books at Tehran’s book fair (May 2024)

Iran Turns Tehran Book Fair into a Hijab Battleground

Sunday, 05/12/2024

Iran’s strict enforcement of hijab has reached a new level of intensity, with reports emerging of invasive surveillance and increased police presence at Tehran International Book Fair to ensure hijab compliance.

The recent 35th Tehran International Book Fair, taking place from 8 to 18 May, has become a battleground for Iran’s intensified crackdown on unveiled women.

This crackdown comes as part of Iran’s “Noor Plan” initiative introduced in April to clampdown on unveiled women, implemented across the country at the directive of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei.

The presence of hijab enforcement officers and the use of drones equipped with cameras to identify women not adhering to the dress code has sparked outrage among attendees.

Quadcopters, fitted with cameras, were deployed to identify women not adhering to hijab regulations, eyewitnesses told Iranwire on Friday. These drones captured images of the individuals and transmitted their locations, facilitating direct confrontations by the hijab enforcers.

Reports suggest that women who tried to enter the Book Fair without wearing hijabs were refused entry, with security forces positioned at each entrance.

Fair attendees' reports on the platform X further illustrate the atmosphere at the fair, with one user describing the overwhelming presence of police officers, and billboards promoting hijab compliance.

Another user expressed her dismay with her experience of attending the fair reporting heavy police presence, tents, vans, guards, and security personnel “to ensure that any woman without hijab can be arrested like a terrorist.”

Another user recounted being turned away from the entrance due to her "trousers being too short" highlighting the stringent enforcement of dress codes.

Furthermore, criticisms were directed at the content and atmosphere of the fair, with complaints about high book prices, and the dominance of religious and state-affiliated publications.

Many Iranians mocked the juxtaposition of banners at the fair promoting “quotes” from literary figures like Leo Tolstoy with messages advocating for chastity and hijab. In last year’s bookfair, another Tolstoy quote was promoted, which was identified as a fake one by researchers.

This year’s Tolstoy banner quoted the Russian writer, stating:

“In the West, women are given freedom, but they still see it as a means of pleasure. The reason for calling the status of women slavery in the West is nothing but men's desire to use women as a means of pleasure.”

This also appears to be a fake quote, as searches did not turn up any Tolstoy statement to this effect.

A banner with a quote attributed to Tolstoy at Tehran’s bookfair

One X user mocked the banner and stated that if Tolstoy knew that years after his death he would appear on a banner at a Tehran book fair, “not for the promotion of his literary works but to justify the abuse of women, he would die once again in his grave”

Another billboard quoted Wendy Shalit, an American conservative writer, ironically with an unveiled image of the author stating:

“There is a general rule nowadays, the more respect you want, the more modest you should dress.”

Meanwhile, in 2020 Shalit stated on X that she “does not support the Iranian government and that she was “keenly aware of their mistreatment & abuse of women” further adding that they are using her name “to spread lies” against Iranian journalist women’s rights activist Masih Alinejad.

A banner with a quote attributed to Will Durant at Tehran’s bookfair

Additionally, another billboard quoted Will Durant, agnostic American author and historian stating:

“Women realized that flirting is a source of taunt and humiliation and they taught this to their daughters that chastity makes a woman strong.”

Moreover, in a bizarre display, photos emerged of books being pierced and arranged into a makeshift arch, presumably as a decorative element for the fair. However, the unconventional art piece was met with criticism and ultimately relegated to a corner.

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