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Hijab defiance continues

Yassamine Mather

With the start of the new Iranian year and after months of protests against the ‘forced hijab’, whereby women are obliged to wear a headscarf in public, the Islamic regime has decided to implement new legislation and practices on this thorny question.

In recent months, large numbers of women have started defying attempts to ensure that they wear the hijab ‘correctly’. This means full covering of hair, including fringes, as well as the forehead and the chin. In most Iranian cities you will find some women now leaving off their headscarf altogether, so the new crackdown, in the month of Ramadan, reflects the regime’s attempt to regain authority.

On April 9 Iranian state television released a video showing security officials controlling the entrance of a number of Tehran metro stations, preventing those who were not wearing the hijab from entering. In addition Ahmadreza Radan, commander of the police force, has warned the citizens that from April 15 people who do not comply with the head-covering regulations will be identified and subject to the judicial system. He added: “The police will use smart systems to prevent any tension and conflict with fellow citizens in establishing the hijab law.”

Mohammad Hossein Hamidi, commander of Greater Tehran traffic police, has also warned inhabitants of the capital that government institutions will use “surveillance cameras throughout the city” to pursue violations of the mandatory hijab.

However, despite confirmation from the police that women not wearing the hijab will be prosecuted, many MPs doubt that any of these new restrictions will work. In the Majles (parliament) Morteza Hosseini said that such a course is “neither practical nor wise”. He added: “Any action in this field should be based on the law approved by the Islamic Majles.” Rather than taking the proposed action, he called on the police chief to “spend your strength and energy in fighting against men who break the law – extortionists and drug dealers – as well as dealing with road safety”.

In addition, so far the threats have not had much effect on the opponents of the mandatory hijab, and women can still be seen walking in the streets without any head-covering – at least in the bigger cities, especially Tehran. Last week two relatively famous actresses attended the public funeral of a director, not wearing a headscarf.

In the last six months, in the nationwide protests that started after Mahsa Amini was killed in the custody of the Gasht-e Ershad (morality police) in September 2022, some women publicly burned their scarves in protest against the mandatory hijab, and many others have simply refused to wear the headscarf – often attracting public support for their bravery.

On university campuses the government has warned students and staff about the need to follow the hijab rules: the ministries of education and of science both declared on the first day of the reopening of schools and universities after Nowruz (Iranian new year) holiday, which has just ended, that students who do not observe the hijab rules will be deprived of education. However, on most campuses there are still a notable number of students refusing to cover their hair and taking protest action.


This week the news has been dominated by the continuation of what has become the ‘chain poisoning’ of students across Iran. According to videos and other images on social media, students have been poisoned in the cities of Shahriar, Bandar Ganaveh, Ashnoye, Amol, Shahin Shahr and Tabriz.

A video sent from Shahriar, near Tehran, shows people complaining that, while the police arrived at the scene following a poisoning incident, there was no sign of any ambulances. Another clip sent from Shahin Shahr in Isfahan province shows the desperate parents rushing around the school trying to find a way to help their daughters, who have also been victims of poisoning.

On April 11 there were reports from the University of Tehran that students and staff were complaining of “inhaling a smell similar to paint caused by painting the lines on the street”. This has resulted in “symptoms of respiratory distress, including burning in the throat, in the students of the student dormitory”.

All this is continuing despite the supreme leader’s condemnation of this wave of poisoning and his ‘instructions’ to find and punish the culprits. But the question remains: who are the forces behind all this? Clearly, with the Islamic Republic facing the most serious crisis of its 44 years, there are factions within the regime itself that are to the right of even the most conservative elements currently in power – factions that presumably oppose the policies of successive governments permitting secondary education for girls, never mind university education. And this in a country where the number of female university applicants is, according to official figures, higher than those for males, and where the percentage of women in science and engineering departments is far higher than in European and North American universities.


Meanwhile, as far as the opposition is concerned, in addition to the prevailing confusion amongst the exiled left, there is good news: there are clearly major differences amongst the supporters of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the former shah. The latest dispute is over adding new names (those of well-known personalities) to the charter of solidarity of the opponents of the Iranian government, promoted by Pahlavi.

Two weeks ago a controversy broke out after the royalists set up a number of crowd-funding projects. Initially they claimed that some of the funds raised would be used to help Iranian people facing financial hardship (ironic, as that hardship is partly caused by the sanctions demanded by the very same ‘regime change from above’ opposition). However, they soon denied sending any funds to Iran. Whatever is raised will be used to finance publicity, travel, media appearances, etc, it is now claimed.

One crowd-funding page I saw (although I have to stress that this may have been a spoof) was to raise the cash to purchase a tiara for Reza Pahlavi’s wife! Of course, it is well known that the ex-shah’s son has managed to squander most of the fortune stolen by his family as they fled after the 1979 revolution. But Pahlavi blames an unnamed “close friend” for duping him into transferring money to a dubious account.

Whatever the reality, the current fundraising efforts are causing divisions amongst his closest allies – clearly they want a ‘fair share’ of whatever is raised in the US and elsewhere.

Source: Weekly Worker