April 1 (Reuters) – Faced with an increasing number of women defying the compulsory dress code, Iran’s judiciary chief has threatened to prosecute “without mercy” women who appear in public unveiled, Iranian media reported on Saturday.
Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei’s warning comes on the heels of an Interior Ministry statement on Thursday that reinforced the government’s mandatory hijab law.
“Unveiling is tantamount to enmity with (our) values,” Ejei was quoted as saying by several news sites. Those “who commit such anomalous acts will be punished” and will be “prosecuted without mercy,” he said, without saying what the punishment entails.
Ejei, Iran‘s chief justice, said law enforcement officers were “obliged to refer obvious crimes and any kind of abnormality that is against the religious law and occurs in public to judicial authorities”.
A growing number of Iranian women have been ditching their veils since the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in the custody of the morality police last September. Mahsa Amini had been detained for allegedly violating the hijab rule.
Government forces violently put down months of nationwide revolt unleashed by her death.
Still, risking arrest for defying the obligatory dress code, women are widely seen unveiled in malls, restaurants, shops and streets around the country. Videos of unveiled women resisting the morality police have flooded social media.
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Under Iran‘s Islamic Sharia law, imposed after the 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose-fitting clothes to disguise their figures. Violators have faced public rebuke, fines or arrest.
Describing the veil as “one of the civilizational foundations of the Iranian nation” and “one of the practical principles of the Islamic Republic,” the Interior Ministry statement on Thursday said there would be no “retreat or tolerance” on the issue.
It urged ordinary citizens to confront unveiled women. Such directives have in past decades emboldened hardliners to attack women without impunity.
(Editing by Frances Kerry)