By Jaime Leon
Tehran, Sep 20 (EFE).- While headscarf-wearing is mandatory for women in Iran as one of the Islamic Republic’s non-negotiable rules, parts of the population reject it as witnessed in the ongoing protests following the death of a woman last week in the custody of the so-called morality police.
Mahsa Amini died on Friday after she suffered a heart attack and fell into a coma at a police station in Tehran, following her detention for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress rules.
Iranian police described the 22-year-old woman’s death as an “unfortunate incident” and denied that she was mistreated at the police station.
Her case triggered nationwide protests, which security forces have suppressed using tear gas, batons, and water cannons.
Many young women took off their head coverings during demonstrations in a clear act of rebellion. Others chanted slogans such as “No to compulsory hijab,” “Women, life and freedom,” and “Death to the dictator.”
“People should decide how to dress,” a conservative resident of Tehran, who usually wears a chador, a loose full-body length garment, tells Efe.
Another woman explains that she wears the hijab even at home, but her daughter barely uses it.
“The new generations are different. They should take it off,” she stresses.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iranian women have been required to wear veils as per a decree by former supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini.
Khomeini called all women not putting on headscarves “naked” and said the hijab is a sign the revolution was successful.
Today, more than four decades after Iran became officially the Islamic Republic, almost all women on the streets still wear headscarves even if only to cover the top of their heads.
Despite its symbolic power, imposing the hijab has not been without controversy
When Khomeini decreed that all women had to put on hijab in 1979, women defiantly took to the streets for six days.
Khomeini backed down but then a year later, he made it mandatory for those holding government jobs.
It became obligatory for all women in 1983, sparking anti-hijab protests in Iran over the years.
In 2017, Vida Movahed protested the mandatory hijab law and was sentenced to a year in prison for removing her veil in public on several occasions. Later, she was pardoned.
Over the past 10 years, dress code enforcement has been loosened , with many women only covering the back of their heads.
But when ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi came to power last year, he called for stricter laws on women’s dress code and ordered a crackdown on those violating it.
Despite protests, it is unlikely for the regime to change its position on the hijab.