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Police In Iran Use Texting To Summon Women Who Violate Hijab In Cars

A female taxi driver fetches a passenger in Tehran, 21Aug2011

Iranian police are using text messaging to warn female drivers and passengers who take off their hijab (scarves) or ignore the Islamic dress code while driving or riding in cars.

Hundreds of women in the capital city of Tehran recently received phone text messages, summoning them to the "Morality Police" station. After days of uncertainty about the origin of the messages, finally police announced the messages are official warnings.

The women are accused of violating the Islamic dress code, including the removal of their scarves while driving a vehicle.

"Those who are summoned will be released after committing themselves in writing that they will not repeat the offense," the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps Brigadier General Hossein Rahimi announced on Thursday evening, April 25.

Should the offense be repeated, Gen. Rahimi warned, the accused will be charged and referred to a court of law.

On Thursday, hundreds of women accused of driving without respecting hijab law (the Islamic Republic's dress code) rushed to the "Morality Police" headquarters in Tehran to inquire about the texts. Their presence disrupted traffic for hours at the busy road and streets close by.

IRGC Gen. Rahimi dismissed the traffic mess as a "minor problem" that was tackled adequately by his forces.

Speaking to the government's official news agency (IRNA), Gen. Rahimi said that drivers, who had been summoned, could have been the owners of the vehicles carrying female passengers who had not respected the Islamic dress code.

Drivers of vehicles are responsible for their passengers, and should not allow them to ride in their cars without proper hijab, IRGC General insisted.

Meanwhile, Rahimi asserted that those summoned may defend themselves, and if proved innocent, they will be freed without any charges.

Earlier last week, Tehran's police chief, IRGC Brigadier general Hossein Sajedi Nia had announced the deployment of "morality police undercover patrols," with more than 8,000 male and female staff to identify dress code offenders.

In recent years law enforcement officials have detained tens of thousands of vehicles for carrying female drivers or passengers who had removed their scarves or violated the Islamic dress code in other ways.

Many human rights defenders and lawyers believe that a vehicle is a private space and should be respected by law enforcement officers.

Nonetheless, the Islamic Republic Judiciary has argued that the invisible part of the car, such as the trunk, is a private space, but this does not apply to the visible parts of a vehicle.

Furthermore, based on a law endorsed and implemented in 2015, wherever is visible to the public, including common areas of residential complexes, hotels, and hospitals, as well as vehicles, are public spaces.

Using mobile phone text messaging to warn female drivers and passengers who violate the compulsory hijab and dress code in Thran started in November 2017.

“The experiment by the capital’s police to text notices to car owners who violate the hijab rule has proven successful,” Theran's prosecutor said. “The move is aimed at reducing traffic accidents in Tehran,” the city's Prosecutor General said at the time.

The reference to accidents means that women without proper hijab distract other drivers, according to law enforcement.