Wednesday, May 03, 2006

10,000 People Get Reprimanded in One Week

Maryam Dastgir, Rooz Online:
The commander of Tehran police says his forces have reprimanded 10,000 men and women in greater Tehran streets for violating the Islamic dress code, the hijab. Over 3,000 businesses were inspected by the police and 290 were given notices to make changes to their displays or for not observing the Islamic dress code. Unlike past cases, the businesses were not fined or closed down this time, and officials have been avoiding harshly confronting people who are not observing the Islamic hijab, also a departure from past practice. READ MORE

The efforts to force women to comply with the Islamic dress code do not just come from the police and the law enforcement agencies. Religious groups and institutions have been behind it and exert pressure on the government and its agencies all the time. Their arguments and pressures make resonance among parts of the ruling circles. It is noteworthy that till today no NGO has called for demonstrations against women’s attire. However, after last week’s Tehran public prayers on Friday, a group of prayer participants, on invitation from pro-government Ansare Hizbullah group, equated bad hijab with prostitution and called on officials to fight it.

Talai, the commander of Tehran police calls his work “supervision” and not intrusion. He says that his forces intervene only when social red lines are crossed, i.e. when the foundations of religion are endangered.

The chairman of the Majlis (Parliament) social committee on the other hand, has criticized the public appearance of women and the make up they use. He calls for stronger action to combat such women. He believes that the majority of people support official crackdown, or intervention to stop women’s loose practices. There are other MPs who think in the same light and support official intervention.

In the same light, the government has embarked on a project to come up with a standard dress pattern to be observed by people. But this has been in the works for years. It is interesting that in its efforts to combat Western culture, the Iranian government a few years ago tried to come up with an alternative to the Western Barbie phenomena and introduced an Islamic barbie. It named them Sara and Dara. The idea was publicly debated and followed, but there are no definitive accounts about its impact. But what is certain is that outlets and stores in Iran now display the Islamic Barbie’s and other personalities, at much less expensive prices.

Every year, with the approach of summer, the police launch projects to enforce the Islamic dress code. In the process, many women get arrested, some are prosecuted, and a few are flogged. While summer is yet to come, the warm season is already here, and women would love to wear clothes that are more befitting the weather and temperatures outside. Will the police once again exercise their routine or will this be a different year? The question implies hope, and only time will tell.