Why have Tehran mullahs begun a new round of repression of women?
Thirty-eight years after the clerical regime took power in Iran
and imposed the mandatory veil on women, today, one of the most serious political and security predicaments of the mullahs is Iranian women and girls' active refusal to give in to the medieval laws instructing them to wear the veil.
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 rule in coercing women to wear the veil and suppressing the entire society thereby.
The solution fit well with the mullahs' misogynist vision and allowed them to conceal their political oppression and savagery in a religious wrap for justification. That is why misogyny and suppression of women are indispensable to the regime's domestic repression and has turned into a pillar of the mullahs' rule, just as important as their policies of warmongering, export of terrorism and acquiring the nuclear bomb.
In the beginning of the 21st century, however, after almost four decades of excessive restrictions, coercion and discrimination against women, and despite deployment of at least 26 cultural, religious, military, disciplinary, legislative, judicial and executive agencies, the regime's failure to contain Iran's resilient women and girls has turned into a political scandal and security threat. For this reason, the regime finds itself in need of imposing further restrictions and the mullahs' supreme leader has personally intervened.
Khamenei weighs in
In an address on May 9, 2016, to the gathering of the Council of the National, Popular Front of Virtue and Veiling, Ali Khamenei reiterated, "Any discussion over the voluntary or mandatory nature of Hijab (women's veil) is deviatory, and does not enjoy any place in the Islamic Republic."
To show how harsh they need to be in this regard, he added, "We cannot sanction sale of alcoholic drinks but tell people not to drink! The Prophet has set flogging as punishment for (drinking alcohol). Therefore, we must not suffice to a mere verbal prohibition."
In yet another speech on May 8, reported by the state-run Tasnim news agency, Khamenei told State Security Force commanders that "breaking the norms" (i.e. women's failure to observe the mandatory dress code) will threaten society's physical, vital and moral security. He underlined that the State Security Force must be omnipresent "in all residential areas and wherever people live."
Subsequently, it became evident that to reinforce the measures to impose the compulsory veil on women, the regime has formed a new front called the "National, Popular Front for Virtue and Veiling" which is made up of 301 active institutes with various capacities in this regard.
Rouhani did not stay behind, either. He also ordered the Ministry of Interior to prepare a comprehensive report in cooperation with the Social Council of the City of Tehran and present it to the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution for it to work out new ways and means to impose the Hijab. (The state-run Fars news agency, July 12, 2016)
Inciting the public over Hijab
Subsequently, Khamenei's spokesmen and representatives all across the country joined the game and preached on how women's veiling is tied to the country's security and existence.
Haddad Adel, former speaker of the mullahs' parliament and Khamenei's confidant: It seems that the situation with hijab is worsening day by day. If we do not come up with any new solutions, we would have to witness worse facts of unveiling… We should not refrain from dealing with violators of the law. (The state-run Young Reporters Club – July 15, 2016)
Morteza Kashkouli, Commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps in the western Lorestan Province: Today, promoting mal-veiling must be considered as a political and security issue. (The state-run Fars news agency, June 30, 2016)
Friday Prayer Leader of Zanjan: Some people have a mission to appear in public with special clothes that violate the dress code. (The state-run Tasnim news agency, July 8, 2016)
Tabatabaii Nejad, Khamenei's representative and Friday Prayer Leader in Isfahan: By promoting mal-veiling and shamelessness among women, the enemies are trying to hollow out the Islamic Revolution! (The state-run Shabestan news agency, July 17, 2016)
Head of Tehran's Seminary Council: The Seminary's acquiescence and not living up to its organizational duties have caused the undesirable situation of women's veiling (Hijab) in the country… If we do not act quickly, everything will crumble and get ruined." (The state-run Khabar Online website, July 12 2016)
Mohammad Bagher Olfat, social deputy for the Judiciary: We are moving from mal-veiling towards unveiling. The Judicial system has to deal with those who promote mal-veiling and unveiling. (The state-run Arman Newspaper – June 22, 2016)
Ibrahim Ra'eesi, a member of the Assembly of Experts: We need to shape a new movement to promote women’s veiling all across the country. This movement must be all-encompassing in a way that it enables us to solve our problems. (The state-run ISNA news agency – July 20, 2016)
Mullah Hadavi Tehrani: Physical encounter is the government's duty! The clergy… are entitled to deal physically with violators, while promoting virtue and prohibiting vice." (The State-run Digarban website, the Judiciary's Mizan website, June 27, 2016)
Another measure seeking to impose more restrictions on women was to re-publish previous fatwas by Khomeini and Khamenei on women's Hijab and even further tightening the restrictions.
For example, in a series of questions and answers published on Khamenei's website, it was ruled for women to cover their eyebrows and even their hands if they wear rings and bracelets. The Q&A also prohibited women from referring to male doctors even in emergencies and banned male doctors from taking women's pulse.
The new wave of crackdown on women
New restrictions were initiated in the beginning of the new Iranian year with the stationing of moral security patrols in the Iranian capital on April 16, 2016.
The police and the State Security forces dealt with individuals who failed to completely observe the mandatory dress code, and women who dropped their veils while driving, etc.
The Moral Security patrols were stationed with their vehicles or motorcycles in front of shopping malls and centers, main squares, also on highways and main thoroughfares to monitor and deal with mal-veiling and non-veiling inside cars. (The state-run ISNA news agency – April 16, 2016)
Just two days later, 7000 undercover police agents were tasked to work parallel with the Moral Security patrols, and monitor and report to the police vehicles whose passengers or drivers drop their veil. (The state-run Mizan website affiliated with the Iranian Judiciary – April 18, 2016)
Then started the wave of attacks and raids on private parties, arresting and flogging young boys and girls.
Every day, hundreds of people were arrested and punished across the country. The case of 35 girls and boys arrested in a graduation party in Qazvin, and their subsequent flogging the next day, 99 lashes each, aroused public outrage throughout the world.
In the meantime, mobile courts were launched in some cities to try and immediately chastise the violators on the spot in the streets.
Under the pretext of Ramadan and then summer, various campaigns were staged to crack down on women and the public in general. From the coasts of the Caspian Sea and the provinces of Gilan, Mazandaran, Gorgan and Astara in the north, to the coasts of the Persian Gulf and the provinces of Boushehr, Hormuzgan, Khuzistan and Kerman in the south, to the provinces of Isfahan, Kermanshah, Zanjan, and others, numerous "social security" maneuvers have been carried out over the past few months. In every city, 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 are deployed to carry out these maneuvers.
Also in the "Week of Virtue and Veiling", the Cultural Council sponsored gatherings in 10 locations in Tehran and 400 locations in other cities to impose the compulsory veil. The paramilitary Bassij and the Organization of Islamic Propaganda organized the events.
Next was the campaign against female bicyclists.
The Iranian official news agency IRNA publishes photos of women bicycling as a gesture of the regime's moderation. The situation, however, is quite different on the ground.
In Isfahan, Khamenei's representative, Mullah Yousef Tabatabaii Nejad described women's bicycling as being among the most dangerous mischief making in the range of drug-trafficking and said it infringes security. (The state-run Aftab website, May 14, 2016)
On Friday, May 20, 2016, in the northeastern city of Mashhad, a group of men and women were arrested while riding bicycles. The bicycles of women were impounded. The State Security Force announced that women are not allowed to ride bicycles.
In yet another similar development in Torghabeh Shandiz, security forces prevented women bicyclers from entering the city because they were mal-veiled. (The state-run Mehr news agency, June 23, 2016)
At the same time tens of thousands of cars which belonged to women were impounded in cities across the country purportedly to deal with non-standard behavior and complete or partial failure to observe the veil.
The next step was gender segregation in concerts and in university camping events. Several concerts were called off because of the presence of female players and a number of female vocalists were arrested to relieve Khamenei's concerns.
Some mullahs even called for sex-segregation in kindergartens and primary schools.
People's accounts on the internet and social networks were monitored and women who had posted pictures without wearing the veil were arrested on the charge of propagating anti-Islamic culture. These included eight women who earned their living by modelling.
Subsequently, it was revealed that the Iranian regime had carried out a two-year operation code-named Spider2 during which 170 people had been identified for managing Instagram pages, 59 photographers and hairdressers, 58 models, and 51 people who owned dressmaking boutiques. The judge in charge of the cyber space crimes said those arrested had propagated and promoted immoral concepts and anti-Islamic culture, particularly by publishing photos of models without the Islamic veil. (The state-run IRNA news agency, May 15, 2016)
The arrested models were sentenced to two years in prison or payment of 4 million toumans in cash. (The state-run Mehr news agency, May 24, 2016) Even shops which had displayed mannequins without clothing properly complying to the official standards, also shop that sold dresses and shirts with foreign language writings on them were sealed and shut down.
Another considerable development was a "media operation" carried out to impose further restrictions on the way women dress at work and before the cameras. The operation ordered by the General Director of the National Radio and Television Organization, covers all the official networks and calls for careful supervision over the clothing of female moderators and actresses. (The state-run Mehr news agency, July 3, 2016)
Women's force for change has terrified the regime
Obviously, all the repressive measures and floggings in the streets were carried out on the orders of Khamenei, the mullahs' supreme leader, to rein in the situation especially after the nuclear deal and its adverse impact on society and on the ruling hierarchy, escalating factional feuding within the regime, as well as economic bankruptcy and devastating poverty and unemployment among the majority of the populace.
In the words of the head of Tehran's Seminary, "If we do not act quickly, everything will crumble and be ruined."
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 enemies.
Most definitely, the women of Iran who have stood up to the mullahs for nearly four decades and refused to give in to their coercion, will keep on their defiance of the regime. And the clerical regime will certainly receive the final crushing blow at the hands of the very women it has oppressed over the years.
" A total of 301 institutes with various capacities are active in imposing compulsory veil on women."
Mohsen Doa'ii, secretary general of the “Front of Veil and Virtue”, announced this and added, “This is a combination of cultural institutes and activists who have been organized in a coherent structure to work on the issue of virtue and veiling.” (State-run Mehr news agency – July 20, 2016)
 The state-run Tasnim news agency, May 10, 2016: Public Prosecutor of Karaj Reza Shah-Karami says 1333 cars have been impounded because of violations including improper veiling.
The state-run Mehr news agency, June 19, 2016: SSF commander of Boushehr Province said mal-veiled women have received 64000 warnings in three months since March, over 1262 women have been summoned by the police, and 215 cars have been impounded. 500 women suspected of dropping their veils have been dealt with.
 Tehran Province’s social deputy, Ibrahim Ghaffari: "No kindergarten is allowed to have mixed swimming sessions… If a kindergarten commits such a violation, it would be sealed off." (The state-run Tasnim news agency – July 18, 2016)
Mullah Raf'ii: "The root cause of mal-veiling goes back to five factors. First, the person and her personality. Second, her family. When a family take their 5 or 6-year-old daughter out without the veil, this child will not receive any teachings in childhood..." (The state-run Mehr news agency, June 23, 2016)
 SSF spokesman Montazer-ol Mahdi: Call for interception of clothes with foreign language writings on them (The state-run Aftab News website, July 19, 2016)
SSF commander in Charmahal-o Bakhtiari Province (southwestern Iran) revealed that 17 plans had been launched in six months for the inspection of shops selling clothes. 362 shops had received warnings, 126 had been sealed for not observing the veiling standards in their displays. He said 36 shops had been sealed up in the past 10 days. (the state-run Tasnim news agency, June 20, 2016)
Six shops were sealed in the Province of Alborz. The head of the inspection unit said some 300 suits had been collected from these shops under the supervision of the Public Places Department. These shops were sealed for offering non-standard clothing. (The state-run Tasnim news agency, July 23, 2016)