May 11, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 609

The Iranian Regime's Efforts to Enforce the Wearing of the Hijab

May 11, 2010 | By A. Savyon and Yossi Mansharof*
Iran | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 609


Recently, the Iranian regime has expressed its concern over the rising trend among Iranian women of appearing in public without a hijab or with their hijab worn carelessly. Senior officials and regime propagandists have said that such immodest dress is to blame for moral decay and corruption, disease, and even earthquakes, claiming it threatens the regime's very existence. It was reported that Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei himself issued an order to address the problem. Soon afterwards, Interior Minister Mustafa Mohammad Najjar announced the launching of the "Modesty and Hijab Campaign," to be implemented by Iran's various government ministries. Maryam Mojtahed-Zadeh, who heads the Center for Women and Family Affairs in the President's Office, said that enforcement of the new campaign might call for the use of force and the renewal of the so-called "information patrols."[1]

The Interior Ministry's "Modesty and Hijab Campaign"

Majlis Member Mohammad Taqi-Rahbar told the conservative daily Jam-e Jam that during an April 19 meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader 'Ali Khamenei, he expressed concern over the rising incidence of women who forgo the hijab or wear it carelessly. Khamenei responded by issuing an order to address the problem immediately.[2] Khamenei himself has criticized the permissiveness towards women in the West and the way in which Western culture presents the female form, saying, "The Western world purports that a respectable woman is one who abandons [the ways of] modesty and the hijab, and appears before men in all her beauty... while this approach [actually] degrades women."[3]

On April 27, 2010, Tehran Police Chief Hossein Sajedinia said that "the public expects the police to take action against [women] who walk about [dressed] like shop window mannequins."[4]

On April 19, 2010, Interior Minister Mohammad Najjar announced that this year would see the implementation of "The Modesty and Hijab Campaign."[5] A week later, Najjar explained that the purpose of this campaign, which was planned in collaboration with the Education Ministry, was to inculcate the culture of the hijab throughout society, from government offices to kindergarten classrooms.

The daily Jam-e Jam reported that government ministries, municipal authorities, and the media would all participate in the campaign, each in its own field: The media would explain how modesty and the hijab contributed to the wellbeing of society; the Education Ministry would select the color of girls' school uniforms; the Finance Ministry would ban the importation of clothing that cannot be worn with a hijab; the Cultural Heritage Organization (affiliated with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance) would inform tourists about the hijab; and the Transportation Ministry would post billboards exhorting women to dress modestly.[6]

Parvin Salihi, an advisor to the Iranian Broadcasting Corporation for women's affairs, said that the Broadcasting Corporation would inculcate the "hijab and modesty" culture among children and youth as well, and would tighten supervision of women appearing on the air.[7]

There were also reports on elementary school girls who participated in a "Hijab March" in Tehran, on April 28, 2010, chanting such slogans as, "Sister, sister, the reward for wearing the hijab is Paradise," "Violating the Islamic dress code leads to the spread of corruption," and "Not wearing the hijab – immodesty, shame, shame."[8]

Prayer Leaders in Friday Sermons: Not Wearing the Hijab Causes Disasters

Prayer leader Ahmad Khatami, in his Friday sermon of May 7, 2010, called upon women to be rigorous in wearing the hijab, saying that "it is a social issue and not a personal one," and that carelessness in this regard "leads to dozens of egregious sins." He emphasized that the regime would be stand firm against the phenomenon of neglecting the hijab.[9] Following prayers, worshippers held a march in protest of "the spread of the unrestrained behavior," chanting: "The leader's orders must be carried out," "Those who remove their hijab are agents for the forces of arrogance [i.e. the West]," and "Corruption and removing the hijab are [the result of] Satan's temptations."[10]

In an April 16, 2010 Friday sermon in a Tehran mosque, prayer leader Kazem Sediqi called upon women "to be more obedient" in wearing their hijab, because women who are not "cause the hearts of young people to tremble and lead to great sins, which will evoke the wrath of God."[11] He attributed earthquakes to women not wearing a hijab, warning that "the spread of adultery leads to earthquakes."[12]

In an April 23, 2010 Friday sermon in Mashhad, prayer leader Ahmad 'Alam El-Hodda called for the Iranian regime to clamp down on the hijab problem and give it high priority. Al-Hodda praised the authorities' proactive enforcement of the hijab, adding, "Some anti-revolutionary elements, in their media and websites, have raised the important and fundamental issue of the hijab... [characterizing it] as a violation of human and women's rights... [For them, letting] women appear in makeup and with their hair down [before] the lustful gaze of men [is tantamount to] defending women's rights and honoring their gender."[13]

Earlier, in January 2010, Al-Hodda referred to the hijab as "a duty incumbent upon all women," warning that failure to observe this custom caused heart disease and drove the youth to distraction. He also linked the neglect of this duty with collaboration with the U.S. and blamed it for desecration that took place during the [anti-regime] riots on Ashura Day, on December 27, 2009.[14]

Jomhouri-ye Eslami: Neglect of the Hijab Endangers the Regime

On April 19, 2010, the Iranian daily Jomhouri-ye Eslami, which is identified with supporters of Hashemi Rafsanjani, claimed that the neglect of the hijab – which had spread like a disease among society – could cause the collapse of the Islamic Revolution regime, as the hijab was a symbol of the values upon which this regime was founded. Following are excerpts from the article:

"Signs of [moral and cultural] contamination and chaos are clearly spreading through many sectors of society: the inappropriate dress of girls and women; the unrestrained [conduct] of girls and boys in the parks and streets, and their forbidden fraternizing in public;... improper relations between girls and boys in the universities; the prevailing atmosphere in the vicinity of girls' high schools, and the problem of girls [being molested because of their immodest dress]; women and even girls wearing makeup in the streets and public places; ...neglect of the hijab by some women in certain parts of Tehran and in other big cities.

"These are only some of the manifestations antithetical to [our] religious laws and to the honor of Islamic society. Another worrying aspect is the hidden decay caused by these manifestations of contamination and [by] the buried strata [of moral and cultural corruption] which threaten [our] morals, [our] families, and the foundations of [our] society...

"The key to the moral and cultural deterioration in this country can be found in the deviant and dangerous thinking cited by Majlis Member [Mohammad Taqi-Rahbar]. [He reported that some] senior regime officials had said to him: 'Our problem right now is not the amount of girls' hair [left uncovered by their hijab].' If we weigh this sort of thinking against the fact that the Islamic Revolution was a moral and cultural revolution aimed at building up the individual and preserving [his] honor, we discover the degree of deviation [from the ideal]. True, the Islamic nature of society does not depend solely on the amount of girls' hair [left uncovered]. However, by underestimating this issue and avoiding questions of morality and culture [we] undermine [our own] roots and foundations. Once society's foundation is corrupted, everything built upon it becomes baseless and is doomed to collapse.

"The Islamic Revolution was victorious thanks to faith, dedication, and cultural activism. The Iranian nation's success in the Iran-Iraq War... was achieved thanks to faith, dedication, and the religious, moral, and cultural-Islamic values of the people and the [regime] officials. Every success, in whatever field, attained by the Iranian nation and the Islamic Republic regime over the past 31 years was achieved thanks to the cultural foundation[s] and values of the nation and the regime. And henceforward as well, it is only by relying on these foundations that we will be able, in today's tumultuous world, to withstand the array of attacks [against us], to continue on the honorable path of the Islamic Revolution, and to preserve and strengthen the Islamic Republic regime.

"This is the precious legacy of [the founder of the Iranian regime, Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, and of the martyrs of the Revolution and Islam, which we must pass on to the generations to come, just as it was passed on to us... Friends of the Revolution and the regime, and even their enemies, have found that the secret to the Revolution's victory, and to its survival, [lies] in morality and culture, and not in anything else. They know well that if the Iranian nation were to be separated from its principles and its moral and cultural values, it would lose the Revolution and the regime forever... [However,] despite their grave responsibility to oversee [society], we have yet to see or hear anything more than slogans from the Majlis members...

"We must all remember the bitter fact that if we ignore the moral and cultural decay, for political reasons or any other excuse, and do not cure this dangerous disease, tomorrow it will be too late – because [the disease] is gnawing at society and eating it from within..."[15]

*A. Savyon is Director of the Iranian Media Project; Y. Mansharof is a research fellow at MEMRI.


[1] Shafaf (Iran), April 26, 2010. These are patrols by male and female officers who approach women whose dress is not in compliance with the Islamic norm and lecture them on the importance of wearing a hijab. Recently, one of there patrols led to a violent incident in Tehran. On April 21, 2010, a woman officer was struck by the brother of a woman whom she had admonished for not wearing a hijab. The officer was hospitalized and eventually died of her wounds; her attacker has been charged with murder. Aftab (Iran), May 2, 2010.

[2] Jam-e Jam (Iran), April 26, 2010.

[3], April 21, 2010.

[4] ILNA (Iran), April 27, 2010.

[5] ILNA (Iran), April 19, 2010.

[6] Jam-e Jam (Iran), April 26, 2010.

[7] ILNA (Iran), April 27, 2010.

[8] ILNA (Iran), April 28, 2010. To view a clip of the march, see:

[9] ISNA (Iran), May 7, 2010.

[10] ILNA (Iran), May 7, 2010. For pictures of the protest, see:

[11] Fars (Iran), April 16, 2010.

[12] ISNA (Iran), April 16, 2010.

[13] IRNA (Iran), April 23, 2010.

[14] Ansar News (Iran), January 7, 2010.

[15] Jomhouri-ye Eslami (Iran), April 19, 2010. Beyond merely calling for enforcement of the Islamic dress code, the daily is taking the opportunity to insinuate that moral corruption in society has actually increased under Ahmadinejad's government.

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