Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Why are Iranian hard-liners once again setting their sights on women? Some 2,000 Iranian women and men demonstrated last week  in the city of Isfahan, and others gathered before the parliament building in Tehran, to protest a series of acid attacks on women and to demand government action.
The acid attacks, which have resulted in blindness, facial disfigurement and at least one death, coincided with the introduction of legislation that would protect people behind such atrocities. The Bill for the Protection of Chastity and Veiling ostensibly bans violence against women and other violators of “morals” and “decency.” In fact, it strengthens the morals police and security authorities and protects others who take measures on the streets to enforce the Islamic injunction to “promote the good and forbid evil.”
If enacted, the legislation is certain to encourage further harassment and attacks against women. It would mean that, once again, women could be stopped on the street by passersby if they show a bit of hair or are not dressed according to a strict Islamic code. Women who violate these “decency” laws would be required to attend a class on proper veiling; a second infraction would incur a sizable monetary fine. The law also requires that men and women be separated in the workplace.
Parliamentarians’ renewed obsession with women’s dress and male-female workplace mixing represents a throwback to the early days of the Islamic revolution, when women who did not observe the Islamic dress code were subject to 70 lashes and when men and women were segregated in university classrooms, buses and elsewhere. The flogging law remains on the books; many women fear it may be enforced again in the hostile environment that is emerging. Demonstrators in Isfahan and Tehran carried placards with messages that included “Stop violence against women,” ”Cancel anti-women laws,” and ”A safe street is my right.”

Conservatives and hard-liners, opposed to this approach and even more opposed to a political opening that might follow, have sought to undermine the president. They seem to believe that by reviving the issue of women and their supposedly endangered morality, they have found a club with which to effectively bludgeon the president. The message they want to send to all Iranians? Your fate is in our hands and your popularly elected president is just an ineffective bystander.

Source: Middle East Program