Iran's Brutal "War on Women:" The New Campaign to Violently Enforce Hijab

The longstanding tensions between Israel and Iran reached a turning point when the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and other Iranian proxies and allies launched a massive attack against Israel on April 13th with drones as well as cruise and ballistic missiles. 

Amidst the backdrop of increasing hostilities between the two long-time enemies in the region, the Islamic Republic is still fighting on the home front. Ongoing protests and demonstrations in Iran began in September 2022 after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died under police custody after she was arrested due to “improper hijab.”

Top clerics, including Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, have recently raised concerns over the growing defiance of the regime’s mandatory hijab laws. Previously dismissing those who oppose the mandatory hijab by referring to them as a small minority influenced by an unnamed enemy, Iran’s clerical establishment is now calling them "an imposed challenge” and now advocates for stricter enforcement of the hijab laws. 

Aside from Khamenei, other top clerics, including the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Gilan Province, Rasul Falahati, suggested that the regime should "seize the opportunity" to enforce the mandatory hijab laws more stringently while leading Friday prayers in the northern city of Rasht. 

He also directed his criticism toward opposition media outlets run by members of the Iranian diaspora, saying they are “now involved in fake Israeli affairs” and the state must use the opportunity to “deal with the situation.

However, it’s not just the Iranian regime who are worried about their weakening control as a result of increasing defiance over the mandatory hijab laws. Many Iranian netizens are also raising alarms over the Islamic Republic’s campaigns to intensify the enforcement of the hijab laws, with the number of tweets about hijab rising from 2,000 to 7,000 on Persian Twitter, while tweets addressing the Israeli-Iranian conflict dropped from 6,000 to 2,000. 

The uptick in hijab-related tweets came after videos of harsh treatment by the morality police against women and violent arrests became viral on Iranian social media.

On April 13th, Iranian authorities unveiled a new campaign to intensify the enforcement of the mandatory hijab law called the Nour Plan. The new hijab enforcement initiative, named after the Arabic word for “light,” was said to be created in response to "national and public demand.

Since the plan was unveiled following Iran’s attacks against Israel, reports of "hijab patrol" agents and vehicles, which were previously withdrawn following the protests caused by the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, resuming in full force, have emerged. Videos of the morality police and their violent behavior began to go viral on social media.

As the Nour Plan was in full swing, the Iranian regime continued to find other ways to enforce the mandatory hijab laws in other areas of public life. In Tehran, over 200 students of the Amir Kabir University went on strike on April 21st to protest the security agents’ targeting of their attire. The strike continued on April 22, resulting in massive disruption of classes in the university.

Some women who spoke against the mandatory hijab law also had their access to the Internet, and mobile services cut off, with 12 women from areas such as Tehran, Karaj, Arak, and Tabriz reporting that their mobile phone service was disconnected just hours after they posted criticism of the regime’s mandatory hijab laws on social media. 

With increasing incidents of arrests and use of force against women perceived to be violating the mandatory Islamic dress code enforced by the Islamic Republic, Iranian netizens across different social media networks used the hashtag "war against women" to document their experiences regarding the government’s increased crackdown against opponents of the mandatory hijab.

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