Iran needs to mind its own business

Iran‘s misogynistic political leadership is again doubling down on the personal freedom of its people. Harrowing images of the country’s notorious Gasht-e-Irshadmorality police – being let loose to detain women flouting Iran’s hijab rules underline a society forced to remain closed. Clothing is a potent tool for showcasing oneself. Whether one wishes to wear a hijab, a suit or a sari is, within the realms of agreed-upon decency, the individual’s business. Unfortunately, states or groups also use it as an instrument of political/cultural subjugation.

Tehran‘s campaign, Noor (‘light’ in Persian), started earlier this month, is regressive, and comes on the heels of the hijab and chastity bill passed in 2023, which dictates that all women must cover their heads in public. Women dressed ‘inappropriately’ could face up to 10 years in jail. The push for making the hijab mandatory dates back to the 1979 Islamic revolution. Retracting this mandate could signal acknowledging the revolution’s unpopularity. The heightened repression can be construed as a growing nervousness among the Iranian leadership in the face of growing disaffection and anger.

One judges countries by the way they treat women. In 2022, India saw protests on the hijab issue – the demand being the opposite. In Karnataka, the state wanted students to do away with hijab, while the latter wanted to keep wearing them. Again, choice is at the core of the issue. There have also been ‘non-hijab’ instances of khap panchayats issuing diktats on what women should and shouldn’t wear, and how they should conduct themselves. It’s essential that societies ensure that women – and men – not the state or mobs, have the sole autonomy to decide how they legally conduct themselves.


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