Ruling Theocrats Double Down on Enforcing Mandatory Hijab Amid Continued Protests
In the surveillance camera clip, a mother and daughter enter a small store in a city close to Mashhad, considered a “holy city” in Iran. The younger woman is not wearing a head scarf (hijab) and the older woman’s scarf is not fully covering her hair. A male customer begins yelling at them, then grabs a large bucket of yogurt and dumps it all over their heads.
The women who were assaulted are arrested for “committing a forbidden act” (appearing in public without proper hijab). The storeowner, who pushed the attacker out, is booked, ordered to appear in court to “give an explanation,” and his shop is temporarily shuttered. Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was also issued for male attacker.
In another video, masked female commandos in the subway harass women without hijab.
If anyone imagined that the months-long rebellion sparked by the murder of Mahsa (Jina) Amini for wearing her head scarf “improperly” had created such a society-wide wave of resistance that the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) would thus back off its regulations making the hijab compulsory or that this was already a fait accompli (accomplished fact), the regime’s pronouncements and steps over the past couple of weeks have shown otherwise.
Far from turning a blind eye to the widespread flouting of hijab rules (especially in large cities), much less renouncing these regulations, the leading fascist core of the Islamic regime has doubled down repeatedly to reinforce these medieval, patriarchal regulations as central to the regime’s legitimacy and its very existence as a theocracy (a state based on and ruled by religious laws and precepts).
Judiciary chief Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i threatened to prosecute “without mercy” women who appear in public unveiled.1
At a meeting with state officials on April 4, “Supreme Leader” Ali Khamenei declared (without evidence) that “foreign intelligence services” were encouraging Iranian women to disobey mandatory hijab regulations, and he urged authorities to develop plans for dealing with the issue. “Discarding hijab is haram [forbidden] based on Sharia and also politically,” he said.
Following Khamenei’s lead, the Interior Ministry stated that it would fully support the activities of vigilantes who’ve been harassing and assaulting women who aren’t fully covered. The ministry also said the judiciary and other enforcement agencies would take action “against the few who act against the society’s norms.” Tehran’s Metro Organization has set up a “chastity and hijab taskforce.”2
Social media users in Tehran shared photos of “hostesses” dressed in full body-length chadors waiting at station gates to catch women with “improper hijab.”
At a recent Tehran City Council meeting, one councilman said, “The resources and capabilities of the people, Jihadi forces, media, army, and [paramilitary] Basij forces that were fighting against Covid-19, why shouldn’t they be utilized to combat prostitution and bad hijab?” Note he is specifically calling for a society-wide crackdown on hijab enforcement backed by the media, the army and the paramilitary forces.
Huge numbers of Iranian men supported and actively defended women who removed and burned their hijabs. This is an extremely positive development in Iran and for the world. But there are still way too many men AND women, who’ve been raised in religious fundamentalist schools and who’ve swallowed the ideological poison of supporting the theocratic regime because it validates and enforces control over women. These are the type of people being unleashed in paramilitary and/or vigilante attacks on women.
The compulsory hijab, as a symbol of women’s oppression, is a major part of the societal “glue” that coheres the Islamic Republic, and therefore the theocratic regime has been unable and unwilling to relinquish it up to now.
This puts the theocrats on a collision course with women who are determined to resist being reduced to second-class citizens, required to cover their bodies, and denied their individuality and full humanity. The compulsory hijab is part of a whole series of patriarchal, misogynist laws and social norms enslaving women under the reactionary, medieval concepts of “chastity” and “honor”—and practices like the “honor killing” of women who do or are simply suspected of stepping outside of the bounds of the traditional, suffocating patriarchy, with its arranged marriages or backward, suffocating sexual mores. It is a terrible society predicated on the total subordination of women to men and a non-existent deity. It is a “Handmaid’s Tale” society with women shrouded in black instead of red uniforms.
Continued Resistance to the Compulsory Hijab
In the face of all this, very brave resistance continues inside Iran against the forced hijab. For example, a video was widely shared on social media showing men forcing a Basij off the train for harassing a woman for “improper hijab.” During the Nowruz New Year holiday period, women took advantage of people being in the streets to dance in public (which is illegal in Iran) and remove their hijabs. A particularly poignant and powerful event occurred on April 5, which would have been the 20th birthday of Hamidreza Rouhi, shot and killed by police during protests in November 2022 in Tehran. His father placed balloons outside the door and invited the neighborhood to celebrate the birthday of his murdered son. Many hundreds filled the street, including some women without hijabs, singing and chanting “Each person who is killed is replaced by a thousand more.”
Internationally, a campaign is being launched to wear and promote a button which reads in Farsi, “I oppose the mandatory hijab” (see recent article in Msmagazine.com). Among those involved are filmmakers of the movie Nasrin, Marcia Ross and Jeff Kaufman.
As the Communique of the Communist Party of Iran Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, “The Burial of the Compulsory Hijab, the Burial of the Integration of Religion with the State Has Begun! Let’s Finish It!” analyzed in September 2022:
In 1979, Khomeini’s compulsory hijab decree was the beginning of the establishment of an all-encompassing Islamic fundamentalist regime. The burial of compulsory hijab accelerates the process of overthrowing this fascist religious regime by leaps and bounds. Compulsory hijab and Sharia law (the integration of religion and government) paved the way for the Islamic Republic to trample on the broader basic rights of the people in all aspects of life: suppression of dissent; freedom of thought, expression and publication; freedom of association and partisanship; suppression of oppressed nationalities; suppression of workers, students and teachers, etc. Compulsory hijab is the cohesive glue of the Islamic Republic, as its leaders have emphasized, “maintaining it is even more important than anti-Americanism.”…
All fundamentalist religious movements in the world, including Islamic, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc., have a very important epistemological and political commonality: they are all anti-science and see religiosity as a major factor in keeping societies under their cohesive control. This is true of Christian fascists in America who are concentrated in the Republican Party today. The abolition of the right to abortion in America by judges supporting these fascists is proof of this fact.
Today, within the framework of the world in which capitalism dominates, there will undoubtedly be class and social interests of obsolete and reactionary social forces in every area of economic, political and social relations that adhere to religion. Only a socialist republic can guarantee the “separation of religion from the state.” This separation means removing religion from all public spheres of society and government; it means that the state must ensure that religion is restricted to the private sphere of citizens, including by adopting a Constitution and laws in various fields mandating this, including primary and higher education, healthcare, economics and property ownership, and generally within the scope of powers and duties of the three executive, legislative and judicial branches.
For original article in Farsi, as well as important theoretical articles on the oppression of women, go to cpimlm.org.
1. Iran’s Raisi says hijab is the law as women face ‘yoghurt attack’, Al Jazeera, April 1, 2023. [back]
2. Officials Signal Hijab Crackdown Following Khamenei’s Remarks, Iran International, April 6, 2023. [back]