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Jolfa in northwestern Iran: Not all women wear a headscarf

Photo: IMAGO/Rouzbeh Fouladi / IMAGO/ZUMA Wire

A few weeks before the first anniversary of Jina Mahsa Amini's death, Iran's morality watchdogs are once again stepping up their crackdown on headscarf violations. The young woman had been arrested in the fall of 2022 for an allegedly ill-fitting headscarf. After her death in police custody, the heaviest protests in decades broke out in Iran. The demonstrations have subsided in recent months, but many women are defying the official Islamic dress code and wearing their hair down. Iran's rulers no longer want to tolerate this.

President Ebrahim Raisi has threatened women without headscarves with consequences. "The spread of the removal of the hijab will definitely be stopped," said the arch-conservative clergyman. "Some persons without a hijab are not aware of this, so we should admonish them, but some of them accompany the enemy's plan."

Hardliners in the country of nearly 90 million people are calling for tougher action against disregard for Islamic dress codes. As a consequence, the government has already drafted a highly controversial law that provides for draconian penalties for violations.

More than one million warnings sent by SMS since April

Only recently, the human rights organization Amnesty International complained about the tightened controls on the headscarf requirement. "Today's crackdown is reinforced by mass surveillance, which can be used to identify unveiled women in their cars and pedestrian zones," said Agnès Callamard, secretary general of the human rights organization.

According to Amnesty, since mid-April, more than one million Iranian women have already been warned by the police by SMS after they were recorded by cameras without headscarves. Their identity is determined by the license plate number. In the event of multiple violations, there is a risk that your own vehicle will be detained (read more on this topic here). Amnesty described the action as an "attempt by the authorities to restore their dominance and power".

In mid-July, Iran's police announced the return of the moral guardians on the instructions of the National Security Council. They are supposed to monitor compliance with the Islamic dress code in force in Iran in public.