TEHRAN (AFP) – Iran has issued more than a thousand warnings and arrested dozens in a new drive aimed at forcing women whose dress is deemed inappropriate to adhere to Islamic dress rules, officials said Sunday.
The nationwide drive — an annual pre-summer crackdown given greater prominence this year — is aimed primarily at women whose coats are seen as too tight, trousers excessively short or hejabs (headscarves) overly loose.
It foresees handing out warnings and guidance to women found to have infringed its dress code in public. Those who show resistance to change can be arrested and then be the subject of legal proceedings.
“Since the plan started at 10:00 am on Saturday, 1,347 women have been warned and given Islamic guidance,” the head of information at Tehran city’s police force, Mehdi Ahmadi, told AFP.
“There were 170 arrests. Of these, 58 were released after making a written commitment and rectifying their appearance. The cases of the rest, who already had a record, were handed over to the judiciary,” he said.
Iranian newspapers printed pictures of women in tight and colourful clothing being given warnings on Tehran’s streets by female police officers dressed in chadors as the crackdown got underway on Saturday.
Twenty shops selling inappropriate clothing were also closed down, Ahmadi said.
The programme was aimed at “improving the security of society with an approach of moral security,” he added.
“Its duration depends on when society feels that there are no longer signs of short trousers, tight mantos (coats), tight clothing and very skimpy hejabs.”
The authorities have argued the “bad hejab” drive is aimed at encouraging women to dress in line with Islamic dress code and it appeared the emphasis is more on handing out warnings than detaining offenders.
Conservatives have applauded the new crackdown as necessary to preserve public morals as women in Tehran increasingly push the boundaries over what is permissible to wear in public.
When the conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in June 2005 there were expectations that the authorities would clamp down firmly on women’s dress in public.
However the situation has not changed and past attempts to bring women into line have petered out after a few weeks.
An editorial in the hardline daily Kayhan said that police were right to ignore the wishes of those who favoured a more softly-softly approach.
“Do not worry, the people support you (the police). The man who sees the robbers of his family’s chastity laughing in his face, the family that despairs over the drug addiction of their child… they are with you,” it said.
Women in Iran are obliged by law to wear the hejab and a full length overcoat that covers all bodily contours. Visiting foreigners and religious minorities are not exempted.
Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, a member of the culture committee of the Iranian parliament, was quoted by the Etemad newspaper as saying a harder line towards female dress was long overdue.
“The current situation is shameful for an Islamic government. A man who sees these models on the streets will pay no attention to his wife at home, destroying the foundation of the family,” he warned.
The Tehran police spokesman warned that men were not exempt from the crackdown.
Ahmadi said officers would also target men sporting clothes deemed too tight or hairstyles deemed too extravagant.