The women who have removed their headscarves in public to protest against mandatory hijab are acting childishly. They are acting out of ignorance and because they have been deceived by foreign influence. Or at least this is what Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafari says he believes.
In recent days, a number of women in various cities across Iran — who have come to be known as Revolution Women — have embarked on acts of civil disobedience against forced hijab by going to public spaces, tying their headscarves to sticks and waving them in protest.
Speaking to a group of reporters on Wednesday, January 31, Jafari stated that women who do not wear hijab are acting illegally, and that those violating the law will be prosecuted [Persian link]. According to a provision of Article 638 of Islamic Penal Code, women who appear in public not wearing Islamic hijab will be punished by a prison sentence of between 10 days to two months and a fine of between 50,000 to 500,000 rials (between $1.50 and $15).
However, there were reports that the bail for one woman by the name of Narges Hosseini had been set at 500 million tomans — over $135,000. During his brief with reporters, Jafari confirmed Hosseini's arrest but stopped short of providing any details.
Ali Motahari, deputy speaker of the parliament, normally a thorn in the side of Iran's hardliners, said a more rigorous enforcement of hijab was necessary. “It is not an important event if a handful of people wave their scarves around,” he told reporters on Wednesday [Persian link], referring to a statement by Jafari that had downplayed the protests. “But if it is important, then why doesn’t the government adequately ensure that hijab is observed.” Motahari went on to deny that hijab is actually “forced” in Iran. Many women, he said, “appear in public in whatever way they want, so there is no coercion.”
Pro-Hijab but against it Being Mandatory
On Wednesday, the controversy around the protesting women grew, with new photographs being published on social networks. One photograph from Mashhad shows a woman wearing a chador standing and waving a shawl tied to a stick to express her solidarity with the protesters. Although she observes the practice of wearing Islamic hijab, she does not believe it should be mandatory.
Another photograph shows a police car parked beside the box in Revolution Street on which Vida Movahed, the original “Revolution Woman,” had stood and waved a white scarf tied to a stick. The Islamic Republic’s law and order forces apparently do not want the spot to become a rallying point for others who want to follow Movahed's example.
Prosecutor General Jafari promised that if the “phenomenon” continues, he will consider it his "duty” to prosecute and punish the offenders. But for now at least, it seems as if the judiciary and police officials just want to downplay the Revolution Women movement and these women's acts of civil disobedience. By denying them more publicity, officials hope they will simply go away.