Iran’s “Hijab and Chastity” Bill Spurs Renewed Crackdown on Women

Iran's "Hijab and Chastity" regulations have sparked global human rights debates, posing a critical challenge in balancing cultural and religious considerations with universal principles.

Iran’s “Hijab and Chastity” Bill Spurs Renewed Crackdown on Women
Artin Bakhan, 1 October 2022

15-05-2024

Masoumeh Rahimi

Middle East Researcher,

Global Human Rights Defence.

On April 13th, 2024, Iran’s Parliament approved the contentious “Hijab and Chastity” regulations, signaling a renewed enforcement of hijab laws and resulting in a fresh wave of arrests targeting women in 2024. This adoption has reignited debates and refocused global attention on the persistent human rights issues within the country.

The government’s determination to adhere strictly to hijab regulations is evident in recent developments. In a notable incident captured on video and shared by political activist Mahdieh Golroo, a woman detained for “hijab non-compliance” was ultimately released following public protest. This incident serves as a poignant illustration of the ongoing resistance to the enforcement of hijab laws in Iran.

The intensified crackdown on hijab violations aligns with directives from high-ranking officials, emphasising the importance of religious decrees regarding hijab. However, these efforts have evoked mixed reactions within Iranian society, with both support and opposition voiced.

Despite international scrutiny and condemnation, the government’s response to dissent has been characterised by violence and severe punishment. Reports from the UN’s fact-finding mission have highlighted a significant number of casualties and detentions, including journalists and prominent figures. The targeting of women activists, many of whom receive harsh sentences, underscores concerns about the regime’s stance on human rights and freedoms.

In a recent development, Ruhollah Muslemkhani, the deputy prosecutor of Qom, announced the detention of four individuals involved in a case described as “a deliberate act aimed at sowing discord within society.”The incident, which involved the unauthorised filming of a woman without the mandatory hijab, has sparked widespread outrage. Government officials initially defended the cleric involved in the confrontation, but subsequent developments have led to arrests and a transfer of the case to the Intelligence Ministry.

This case adds to a pattern of public outcry over clerical interference and hijab enforcement, particularly following the nationwide protests in September 2022 triggered by the death of Mahsa Jina Amini while in police custody for an alleged headscarf violation. Since then, thousands of Iranians have protested for more freedoms and women’s rights, prompting a brutal crackdown by the judiciary and lawmakers.

As the Iranian government proceeds with the implementation of the “Hijab and Chastity” regulations, the international community faces a crucial juncture in engaging with the country on human rights issues. Balancing cultural and religious considerations with universal human rights principles remains a formidable challenge in Iran and other societies grappling with similar complexities.

Efforts to address human rights concerns must be undertaken with sensitivity and respect for the diverse perspectives within Iranian society. Ultimately, achieving justice and equality requires collaborative and inclusive efforts from all stakeholders involved. Increased international pressure and engagement may be necessary to effect meaningful change and uphold the rights of all individuals in Iran. As the international community continues to monitor and engage with Iran on these issues, it is imperative to advocate for dialogue, understanding, and respect for individual freedoms. Only through collaborative efforts can lasting progress be achieved towards a more just and inclusive society in Iran and beyond.

Sources and Further Readings

PRESS BRIEFING NOTES, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 'Iran: crackdown on hijab law' (26 April 2024), available at: <https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2024/04/iran-crackdown-hijab-law> accessed on 15 May 2024.

The Guardian, 'Iranian women violently dragged from streets by police amid hijab crackdown' (24 April 2024), available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2024/apr/24/iranian-women-violently-dragged-from-streets-by-police-amid-hijab-crackdown>  accessed on 16 May 2024.

PRESS BRIEFING NOTES, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, 'Iran: crackdown on hijab law' (26 April 2024), available at: <https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-briefing-notes/2024/04/iran-crackdown-hijab-law> accessed on 15 May 2024.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda, 'Iranian Prosecutor Arrests Four After Video Of Hospital Fight Goes Viral’ (12 March 2024) available at: <https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-prosecutor-arrests-hospital-fight-video/32859012.html> accessed on 16 May 2024.

Iran International, 'Iranian Woman Confronts Cleric Over Unauthorized Video' available at: <https://www.iranintl.com/en/202404247376>, accessed on 16 May 2024.

IranWire, 'Over 325 Women Detained in 2023 Amid Iran's Hijab Law Enforcement', available at: <https://iranwire.com/en/women/126208-over-325-women-detained-in-2023-amid-irans-hijab-law-enforcement/> accessed on 16 May 2024.

Iran International, 'Iranian Woman Confronts Cleric Over Unauthorized Video' available at: <https://www.iranintl.com/en/202404247376> accessed on 16 May 2024.