Iran reviewing mandatory hijab law - report

The women of Iran have been legally required to adhere to Muslim modesty laws, loose clothing and covered hair, since 1981, two years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

 Iranian women chant during a protest condemning the Shiraz attack and unrest in Tehran, Iran October 28, 2022 (photo credit: WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)
Iranian women chant during a protest condemning the Shiraz attack and unrest in Tehran, Iran October 28, 2022
(photo credit: WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

A high-level Iranian official said that the country's mandatory hijab law is under review, according to a Sunday report from CNN. This comes amid disputed claims that the nation has disbanded its now-infamous 'morality police.' 

Entekhab, a pro-reform Iranian news outlet, reported last week that "Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Attorney General of the country, mentioned the discovery of the hijab as one of the current sufferings and said: 'The Parliament and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution are working and studying the issue of the hijab, the results of which will be known in the next 15 days. These decisions should be made based on [this discussion].'"

According to The Guardian, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on Saturday that Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations were inextricably linked constitutionally.

“But there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” he said in televised comments per The Guardian.

The women of Iran have been legally required to adhere to Muslim modesty laws, loose clothing and covered hair, since 1981, two years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

 Basij militia forces attend a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran November 26, 2022.  (credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters) Basij militia forces attend a meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran November 26, 2022. (credit: Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/West Asia News Agency/Reuters)

Shutting down the morality police?

Also on Sunday, Montazeri stated in response to a question about the closure of the "morality police" (also known as the "Guidance Patrol") that "The guidance patrol has nothing to do with the judiciary, and it was closed from the same place it was established in the past."

Montazeri stressed that the judiciary continued to monitor "behavioral actions" at the community level and that hijab throughout Iran, especially in the city of Qom, is "one of the main concerns of the judiciary as well as society."

Who are the morality police?

The morality police, attached to Iranian law enforcement, is mandated to ensure the respect of Islamic morals as described by the Islamic Republic's top clerical authorities. Units are often made up of and backed by the Basij, a paramilitary force initially mobilized to fight in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Basij have a presence in every Iranian university to monitor people's dress and behavior, as higher learning is where Iranian males and females meet for the first time in a mixed educational environment.

The Islamic responsibility of Hijab

The divine command of the Hijab is widely attributed to the Quranic verses 24:31 and 33:58. The former commands Muslim women to "draw their veils over their chests, and not reveal their hidden adornments" except to close family. The latter entreats the Prophet to "ask your wives, daughters and believing women to draw their cloaks over their bodies. In this way, it is more likely that they will be recognized as virtuous and not be harassed."

According to the verse, covering the body is meant as a measure against harassment.

Maya Zanger-Nadis and Tzvi Joffre contributed to this report.