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An Iranian policewoman (L) warns a woman about her clothing and hair. (Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Big brother

New undercover police hit the streets of Tehran stoking fears of headscarf enforcement

April 27, 2016

Officials in the Iranian capital of Tehran have launched a new undercover morality police division, and it has many Iranian women living in fear. The new division is made up of 7,000 men and women who, according to the city’s police chief Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, will be charged with patrolling the streets for harassment against women, excessive car horn honking and unnecessary engine noise. However, many women in Iran are skeptical about what the plainclothes officers will really be patrolling the streets in search of. Younger women particularly see the new morality police division as a novel way for authorities to enforce Iran’s strict dress code. One woman who’s unsettled by the news is Sousan Heidar, 22, a Tehran resident who often wears her headscarf loosely and is a fan of wearing noticeable makeup. “Every single man or woman could be a member of the unit,” she told The Associated Press in an interview. “I don’t know. Maybe some plainclothes have already reported me because of heavy makeup.” Another woman who has two college age daughters said the new police division has her on edge, too. “When the girls do not answer my phone calls during the day, my heart beats faster,” she said, adding that she’s concerned that they could be arrested while at college.

Women in Iran have good reason to be anxious. Just last week an influential ayatollah issued a sermon on weakening social norms and the decay of Islamic values in Iran. He said that women who drive while not wearing a veil “cannot be called freedom,” a reference to the phenomenon in which young women wear their veils loosely, or not at all, while behind the wheel of a car. Indeed, Masih Alinejad appeared onstage at the Women in the World Summit in New York City earlier this month to discuss the oppressive cultural pressure placed on women in Iran. Alinejad, who is easily recognizable by her beautiful, curly head of hair, operates a Facebook page called My Stealthy Freedom, which chronicles anonymous photos of women in Iran going about daily life while not wearing a veil — in bold defiance of the laws there. She told the audience in New York that “Women in Iran are breaking the law every day just to be ourselves.”

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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