Sunday, June 15, 2014

Iran: Two-Thirds of Conservative Members of Parliament Appeal to President Rouhani to Ensure Women Dress Appropriately

According to AFP, two-thirds of Iran's Parliament have written to President Hassan Rouhani urging him to take measures to ensure that women correctly observe Islamic dress, denouncing Western cultural influence against the veil.

The 195 members of the 290-strong Parliament who signed the letter in part blamed satellite television for feeding the trend, ISNA news agency reported on Sunday (June 15).

A defining feature of Iran's interpretation of Islamic law since the 1979 revolution re: the hijab obliges women to cover their hair and much of their body in loose clothing when outside, regardless of their religion.

A dedicated "morality police" has long handed out fines, verbal notices or even arrested women it considers are not properly observing the norms, yet lawmakers have in recent months criticized lax enforcement.

In the letter, the MPs wrote: "One of the main areas of cultural invasion is in trying to change the way of life of Iranians regarding the veil. We ask that you give the necessary orders to enforce the law."

COMMENT: However, President Hassan Rouhani, a self-declared moderate who was surprisingly elected last June, has expressed a desire to expand social freedoms, much to the disapproval of hardliners.

In October 2013, he asked police to be moderate when enforcing the hijab requirements and recently said, "We cannot take people to heaven by using whips," a remark that was condemned by conservatives.

Rather than wearing a full-length traditional robe that drapes the entire head and body, many women wear a thinner head scarf, leggings and shirt.

Police in Tehran earlier this month launched a new drive against non-compliance of the female dress code. Traffic officers were deployed on the capital's biggest roadways and women, drivers and passengers, stopped and screened for compliance.

The MPs' letter and push for stronger enforcement coincides with an online campaign in which hundreds of Iranian women posted pictures of themselves flouting the dress code inside Iran.

The Facebook page "Stealthy Freedoms of Women in Iran," was launched by a London-based Iranian woman who said she wanted a debate on having the right to choose to wear the hijab.

At least two protests to demand enforcement of the hijab have taken place in Tehran in the past two months.