The most common form of violence against women in Iran
The rate of domestic violence against women in Iran is the world’s highest but the most prevalent form of violence against Iranian women is perpetrated by the ruling regime in its efforts to enforce the mandatory Hijab on them.
If at least 66 percent of Iranian women experience domestic violence in their homes, one must say that virtually 100 percent of them experience the state-sponsored violence to enforce the veil everywhere, every day and round the clock on the streets of cities across the country.
The Commander of the State Security Force, Hossein Ashtari, once boasted that his forces arrest at least 2,000 women every day in cities across the country, for flouting the compulsory veil (The state-run Tasnim news agency, September 29, 2016).
These arrests are accompanied by violence, and 27 ministries and institutions are tasked with enforcing the mandatory Hijab on Iranian women.
In very few occasions where a bystander manages to film the state security forces or morality patrols’ treatment of women in the streets, the video clips are truly heart-rending and horrifying. They bring to life the pain and horror of Iranian women who are routinely denied their freedom to choose their clothing.
One of the regime’s female MPs once acknowledged that there are long-lasting psychological consequences for women who are dealt with by the Guidance Patrol. Parvaneh Salahshouri told a parliamentary session, “The anxiety and fear caused by the Guidance Patrol affects some young women and girls for long years, leaving undesirable psychological consequences. As an MP, I have seen cases when the girl’s cover was not that bad but such unprincipled approaches have caused psychological problems for the person which has led to other ailments” (The state-run Mehr news agency, November 28, 2017).
Punishment for flouting the mandatory veil
The amendment to Article 638 of the Islamic Penal Code stipulates that women who appear in public places without the veil are sentenced to imprisonment for a term of 10 days up to 2 months or are fined by 50,000 to 500,000 rials in cash.
According to this article, even a strand of hair being out is a problem, and it should be applied to girls 9 years and older. (The state-run ROKNA news agency – June 1, 2019)
The Tehran police also announced in a statement on February 23, 2018: “Encouraging women to shun the veil… is punishable by one to ten-year prison sentence and cannot be replaced by alternative forms of punishment.”
On the ground, however, the punishments are even harsher.
Three female activists, Monireh Arabshahi, her daughter Yasman Aryani, and Mojgan Keshavarz, were sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison for celebrating the International Women’s Day in a metro wagon by removing their head coverings.
Another opponent of the compulsory veil, Saba Kord Afshari, was also sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment for removing her veil.
Enormous funds go to Hijab campaigns instead of fighting the pandemic
The clerical regime allocates enormous funds and resources to impose the mandatory veil.
While the regime’s Judiciary has not yet adopted a VAW bill to criminalize violence against women in Iran, it has criminalized women’s wearing of attires that do not comply with the regime’s standard dress code even outside office hours. It carries out inspections of government and private sector offices as well as hospitals to monitor women’s proper observance of the veil.
The Assembly to Promote Virtue and Forbid Evil has 30,000 members in 26 provinces who send their reports every six months to the person of the supreme leader. (The official IRNA news agency – September 30, 2019)
According to the sources of the Iranian Resistance, the death toll due to Coronavirus infections has exceeded 166,000. Still, the regime has refused to pay the Health Ministry the fund it needs to fight the virus and pay the salaries of health-care staff.
While the clerical regime spent hugely on campaigns and forces who enforce the compulsory veil, it did not provide the needy any assistance to protect themselves from the virus as they grapple with unemployment, poverty and homelessness.
In all provinces, the SSF boosted their forces by deploying hundreds of vehicles and motorcades, hundreds of official security agents and a wide range of agents from the seminaries, the paramilitary Bassij, and honorary police to monitor public places and even recreational areas.
The clerical regime launched four new campaigns this year to step up its crackdown on women who do not properly observe the veil or audaciously remove it altogether. They also inspected clothes manufacturers, shops and boutiques, sealing them off or punishing them with fines.
Hossein Rahimi, Commander of Tehran’s State Security Force, said, “Dealing with producers and sellers of unconventional clothing is a priority on the agenda of the police and those who openly violate the rules on veiling will be targeted by the police” (October 21, 2019).
The “Nazer” Hijab Campaigns send thousands of security forces to the streets to harass and arrest Iranian women and girls. The regime justifies its campaigns under the pretext of “moral security” and dealing with “improper veiling.”
Acting SSF commander Qassem Rezaii announced the enforcement of four Nazer Plans.
Rezaii said the SSF “works round the clock to fulfill its missions.” He further explained: “The State Security Force has planned and executed four Hijab and Chastity plans. In Nazer 1 Plan, the SSF deals with individuals who violate the veiling code in their cars. The Nazer 2 Plan deals with women who remove their veil or do not properly observe it in shopping malls and major stores. Nazer 3 and 4 Plans focus on women who do not observe the veil in recreation areas, walks and in the cyber space” (The state-run ROKNA news agency – September 20, 2020).
Nazer 4 Plan, the latest of the four Hijab campaigns, expanded the control of the mullahs’ Cyber Police (FATA). They monitor social media accounts on modelling, photography and art. The charges leveled against users include dissemination of photos which “violate public chastity,” are “immoral” or “vulgar.”
Hijab Campaigns Nazer 1 to 4
The clerical regime also requires all female students to put veiled pictures of themselves in the profile of their accounts for online classes.
Parents have been pressured and threatened parents to change their daughters’ profile photos before they attend online classes during the pandemic.
In a more recent measure, the State Security Force has been confiscating the national identity cards of women whom they deem as “improperly veiled.” Without the national identity card, these women are deprived of all social services. (November 7, 2020)
In yet another measure to ramp up pressure on Iranian women, the clerical regime has set up a garrison in Qom to organize and coordinate all members of the Bassij force who are involved in “promoting virtue and forbidding evil.” (The state-run Young Journalists’ Club – November 17, 2020)
70% of Iranian women oppose the mandatory Hijab
After four decades of excessive restrictions, coercion and discrimination against women, and despite deployment of at least 27 cultural, religious, military, disciplinary, legislative, judicial and executive agencies, the mullahs’ failure to contain Iran’s resilient women and girls has turned into a political scandal and an existential threat to the regime.
A report published in summer 2018 by the research center of the mullahs’ parliament (Majlis) indicated that some 70% of Iranian women do not believe in the compulsory dress-code, namely the head-to-toe black veil or Chador.
The report confirms that Iranian women observe the veil only through coercion and harsh restrictions. The research indicated that young, educated women residing in large cities and metropolises, have the strongest resistance against the mandatory veil.
This was more recently confirmed by another one of the regime’s experts on this issue.
Mehdi Nassiri, former chief editor of Kayhan daily newspaper, said during a television interview, that 70% of people in Iran oppose the mandatory Hijab and that every year the number of those who adhere by the official dress-code decreases by 5%.
Nassiri who has been constantly abreast of the polls done by the Ministry of Guidance over the past 15 years, said the latest polls show that even in religious cities like the Holy City of Qom, the majority of people oppose the mandatory Hijab.
Nassiri openly admitted that “the Islamic Republic has not been able to reach its goal by making the wearing of the veil compulsory. The law has not been able to promote the veil, rather because of violent treatment and continuous harassment of people, it has created an enormous resentment which could lead to atheism in society.” (The 4th network of the Iranian state television, September 17, 2020)
“Really, why is there so much insistence on enforcing the mandatory hijab when they see its negative result over 40 years? It is interesting that in other countries, the number of women wearing the hijab is increasing, but they are declining in Iran.”
This question was raised in an op-ed by Mostafa Tajzadeh, former Deputy Minister of Interior and former Deputy for International Affairs at the Ministry of Guidance (The state-run T.news – October 21, 2020).
Call to make society unsafe for opponents of mandatory Hijab
Representatives of the mullahs’ Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, prioritized a new wave of suppression against Iranian women, justifying them by citing “social security” concerns. They said it was a priority for the State Security Force (The state-run Mehr news agency – October 25, 2020).
Habibollah Sha’bani, Khamenei’s representative in Hamadan Province and the Friday prayer leader of Hamadan, declared, “The State Security Force should not allow criminals to feel safe in society.” (The state-run Fars news agency – October 22, 2020).
The Friday Prayer Leader of Isfahan, central Iran, called for formation of special court branches to tackle “moral abnormalities.”
Yousef Tabatabaii-Nejad urged the authorities to grant greater powers to the State Security Force (SSF) to deal with Hijab offenders. His comments came in a meeting with a top Armed Forces’ security official and the SSF Commander of Isfahan Province. By “Hijab offenders” he meant women who oppose the mandatory Hijab and display their opposition in various forms.
Tabatabaii-Nejad said: “The social atmosphere must be made unsafe for these people whose number is scarce. But they must not be allowed to be relaxed in streets and parks while breaking the norms.” (The state-run Mehr news agency – October 2, 2020)
The mullah also called on the courts to support those who forbid evil and promote virtue. He refers to Bassij forces who target women in the streets, violently forcing them to observe their mandatory Hijab.
Why is the issue of hijab so crucial to the regime?
While astronomical embezzlements, a shattered economy, rampant poverty, unemployment and many other social ills have destroyed the foundations of Iranian society, the regime’s leaders claim that “the enemies of the state” are planning to topple the regime by promoting “mal-veiling” and “non-veiling.”
The misogynous mullahs think that if women are left free to choose their own clothes and covering, they would move on to gain more rights and remove the restrictions imposed on them which would in turn lead to a social upheaval, an existential threat to the regime.
Therefore, under the pretext of protecting women’s chastity and virtue, they send their thugs to the streets to humiliate, offend and crack down on women.
The regime’s theoreticians acknowledge that in light of years of carnage and bloodshed, fraud, embezzlement and economic bankruptcy, and a pervasively disgruntled populace, the only remaining “Islamic” symbol of the regime is the women’s veil (chador). If they lose this, too, nothing will remain of the regime’s claims to Islam and its raison d’etre for holding on to power under the absolute rule of a supreme clergy.
Furthermore, the mullahs would lose their main excuse for cracking down on the public. They will no longer have any reason to dispatch their revolutionary guards, Bassij, security forces and plainclothes thugs to the streets to terrorize the people.
This is why the Iranian women’s veil (Hijab) has turned into such a sensitive national security issue. This is also the reason why women who do not observe the veil are considered as agents of the enemy.
Unable to respond to the needs of a progressive and freedom-loving society that had torn the bondage of a monarchic dictatorship, the new fundamentalist regime in Tehran found the solution for imposing its dictatorial rule on society in coercing women to wear the veil.
This is why misogyny and suppression of women are indispensable to the regime’s survival, serving as an inherent pillar of the mullahs’ rule, just as crucial as its nuclear project, export of terrorism and warmongering.
And this is why the quest for elimination of violence against women in Iran and upholding of Iranian women’s rights is intertwined with the nationwide movement for regime change. Likewise, defending women’s rights and equality is indispensable to the struggle for the Iranian people’s freedom.