Debate over Iran’s obligatory headscarf heats up

By Jaime León

Tehran, Apr 4 (EFE).- Iranian women who refuse to wear the obligatory religious headscarf are facing a state clampdown that could see them refused access to education and businesses.

Officials in the Islamic Republic of Iran have ordered state education centers to deny access to women who defy the dress code and have threatened businesses who serve them with closure.

There have also been cases of fanatical civilians enacting vigilante reprisals on women who forgo the hijab.

Many women in the Islamic Republic threw off the headscarf in a gesture of protest following the death of Mahsa Amini last September after she was arrested for allegedly not adhering to the obligatory dress code.

The mass protests that gripped the country for several months have since abated, however, and officials are turning their attention to the reimposition of headscarf rules that have been in place since 1983.

To that end, the education ministry on Monday ordered state centers and universities to refuse access to female students who do not wear the hijab.

“The veil and chastity are an obligation” for the students, it said, adding that they must abide by the rules of the Islamic Republic.

The health ministry said in a statement shortly after that universities under its supervision would follow suit.

Universities, high schools and some elementary schools were an epicenter of the women-led protests against the Islamic Republic. Some students posted photographs of them removing their headscarves under the gaze of portraits depicting supreme leader Ali Khamenei and his predecessor, founder of the Islamic Republic Ruhollah Khomeini.

The widespread defiance of the country’s strict dress code has conservative circles and religious clerics up in arms.

“The hijab protects the individual and society from damage and deviations,” Iran’s conservative president Ebrahim Raisi said Saturday. “Today the hijab is a legal question.”

His remarks came a day after footage depicting a man throwing yogurt at women who were in public without headscarves.

The images further stirred the debate in the nation with reformists criticizing the aggression and conservatives praising his actions.

The justice minister ordered the arrest of the two women and the man in the incident.

The case was not an isolated one.

A Tehran resident who spoke to Efe on the condition of anonymity said she had food thrown at her head in the street, while another said she had been punched for not wearing the veil.

In the capital Tehran it is common to see civilians, especially women dressed in conservative chadors, reproaching others for refusing to wear the veil and local newspapers are full of reports of businesses forced to close for serving women who defy the rules. EFE


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