August in the Islamic Republic of Iran is the height of morality-police season, or Gasht-e Ershad (Persian for Guidance Patrols), yet, in Sari, the capital city of Mazandaran province, the season has already started and reached a new level.
Sari’s Prosecutor-General has warned female drivers to keep their hijabs (headscarves) tight, otherwise their vehicles will be seized.
“Those women who remove their hijabs inside vehicles will be prosecuted,” the Judiciary’s website quoted Assadollah Ja’afari as saying on Tuesday, June 27.
The judiciary is prepared to “seriously confront” those who “ignore the hijab law,” Ja’afari cautioned.
Referring to Article 638 of Iran’s Islamic penal code, Sari’s Prosecutor-General reiterated: “Those who remove their hijabs will be formally accused and prosecuted for publicly conducting a ‘haram’ (sinful and forbidden by the Islamic law) action.”
The law asserts: “Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a haram act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes; and if they commit an act that is not punishable but violates public decency, they shall only be sentenced to 10 days to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes.”
The Article also states that women, who appear in public places and roads without wearing an Islamic hijab, shall be sentenced to ten days to two months’ imprisonment or a fines.”
Nevertheless, Sari’s Prosecutor-General made clear the ban applied to motorized vehicles. “Private or public vehicles, motorbikes, jet skis, motorized boats and other motorized vehicles owned by individuals who remove their hijabs, or passengers who do so, do not observe the hijab law, will be impounded and moved to [police] parking lots,” said Prosecutor Ja’fari.
Moreover, “the owner of the said vehicles will be prosecuted according the law,” Ja’afari cautioned.
Earlier, Traffic Police Chief General Taqi Mohri had also warned that his forces will confront those who “break the norms” inside their cars.
On May 30, General Mohri warned that drivers and passengers could be arrested for not wearing the hijab properly or eating or drinking in public during Ramadan
“It’s true that a vehicle is an example of a private space, but it’s not the same as a house,” said Mohri. “It is up to the judiciary to prosecute and sentence whoever violates the law.”
The Center for Human Rights, CHR, quoting a prominent lawyer, Mohammad Seifzadeh, said otherwise: “According to a decision by the Supreme Administrative Court, private cars are considered private spaces and a prosecutor would have to issue a warrant to enter.”
Tehran’s Prosecutor-General, Abbas Ja’afari Dolatabadi appeared unconvinced. “Arresting people does not necessarily lead to a change in their attitudes. Punishment per se does not bear required results,” he said.
According to Dolatabadi, punishment should be limited to the necessary cases and employed on the basis of [our] facilities. “We have to focus on principle cores, organized crime and corruption that are meticulously designed and committed.”
All Iranian women wear hijab by law but many women resent the laws related to how to do so. For three decades Iranian women have been struggling to assert their own freedom regarding the hijab.
“It’s not only the question of wearing a headscarf, the question is thousands of overt and undercover morality-police forces who ambush everywhere to catch you if your scarf is a little bit slipped away from your hairline,” said a young lady from Tehran when interviewed on the topic.