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Interior Minister Says Heavy-Handed Enforcement Of Hijab Has Been Futile

Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, speaking in a meeting, December 31, 2017.
Iranian interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, speaking in a meeting, December 31, 2017.

Iran’s Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli has said that “strict measures” to enforce hijab have not been fruitful.

Speaking at a meeting in Tehran on Sunday March 5, Rahmani Fazli called for “thorough studies to find the root cause” of the failure, reported the official government news agency IRNA.

He also said that dress code patrols, the police and the judiciary have not been able to enforce hijab rules following the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) further quoted Rahmani Fazli.

Meanwhile he added “Social developments and change of lifestyle have rapidly changed Iranians’ attitudes about social issues including hijab.”

Rahmani Fazli continued that as far as the government is concerned, hijab is a cultural issue and it does not view failing to observe the dress code as a criminal offence.

This signals that President Hassan Rouhani’s government would like to see a moderation in hijab rules and dress code.

Nevertheless, Tehran’s Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi stressed that “failure to observe the rules of hijab in public is an offence.”

Dolatabadi then called on the police “to fulfil their responsibility” in enforcing the dress code.

The interior minister is officially in charge of the Iranian police, aka Law Enforcement Force, which does not have a good track record of listening to the minister. Although it must enforce what the ministry adopts as official policy, yet the police force has always been part and parcel of the regime’s hardline side and answerable to them.

Rahmani Fazli represents the Rouhani administration, but it is the hardline prosecutor Dolatabadi who has the upper hand in controlling law enforcement and his call for heavy-handed treatment of the protesters always supersedes the administration’s moderate rhetoric, which is evident in Rahmani Fazli’s comments.

Earlier, Tehran’s Police Commander Hossein Rahimi had said that the police would firmly enforce the hijab.

Rahimi made the comment after a policeman pushed down a young woman who was protesting compulsory hijab in Tehran causing serious injury before arresting her. Videos of the incident show a policeman using swear words against by-standers after attacking the woman.

Jila Bani Yaqub, an Iranian journalist, wrote on her Twitter that the young woman, Maryam Shariatmadari, was in serious need of medical attention.

Social media users have also reported that policemen broke an arm of another young woman, Hamraz Sadeqi, while arresting her for peacefully protesting the compulsory hijab.

On 26 January, international human rights watchdogs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the clamp-down on women protesting compulsory hijab in Iran.

US State Department has also expressed support for Iranian men and women’s peaceful protest against compulsory hijab.

Peaceful demonstrations against compulsory hijab gained a new momentum in late December 2017 simultaneous with widespread protests poverty and social injustice in over 80 cities in Iran.

In January, the police announced that those protesting compulsory hijab might be jailed from one to ten years.