If there were any doubts that most Iranians are against the compulsory wearing of the hijab, and the government’s role in enforcing it, a new official report will go a long way in dispelling them.
“Effective Factors in Implementing Hijab Policies and Working Options Ahead” is the name of a 43-page report that was published on July 28 by the Iranian Parliament’s Research Center [Persian PDF]. The most significant finding of this report is the acknowledgment that the number of people who believe in the compulsory wearing of the hijab has fallen by 50 percent, to around 35 percent of Iranians. It is also significant that, apart from those who are considered “bad-hijab” women (women who wear the hijab incorrectly), there are even more people who believe in the wearing of the hijab but are against any government intervention to enforce it.
By comparing surveys undertaken by government agencies over various years, the report states that supporters of measures like Morality Patrols “has fallen considerably”, and only 40 percent of Iranians agree with any government intervention to enforce the hijab. Based on the same surveys and statistics, the report concludes that Iranian society is moving towards “bad hijab” or “secular hijab” as the norm.
According to the findings of one survey conducted in 2012, which was cited in the report, around 65 percent of women in Iranian cities and villages wear “bad hijab”. The report also acknowledges that 70 percent of Iranian women do not believe in “ordained” hijab and, in general, the public believes less in “Sharia hijab” – with its strict rules about covering every strand of hair, arms and legs, and its insistence on “proper” outfits that hide every curve of a woman’s body.
In parts of the reports, the authors have used the term “secular hijab”, and it seems they are trying to substitute it for “bad hijab”. Under the Islamic Republic, “secular” or “common law” usually refers to customs, practices and beliefs that either Sharia law has nothing to say about or disapproves of.
Another part of the report discusses the policies of the Islamic Republic to fight “bad hijab”, acknowledging that, altogether, the policies “have not improved the situation of hijab in the society.”
In its conclusion, the report discusses “centers” of the “bad hijab crisis” and offers five scenarios for dealing with the situation, asserting that: “The main center of the hijab crisis lies within the educated, the young, and the residents of big cities that have a certain cultural attitude.”
From a cultural perspective, the report states that the value of the hijab in Iranian society has fallen and that there is a certain social pressure against the wearing of the hijab. The opposition to Moral Patrols, it adds, is very strong.
The report puts forward five alternate scenarios for handling “bad hijab”.
1. Enact harsher laws against “bad hijab”
In this scenario, harsher laws against “bad hijab” are enacted to strengthen deterrence. This scenario requires that society regards the hijab with high esteem and requires unified support between governing institutions and figures and among political currents and the elite. At this moment, such conditions do not exist.
2. Decriminalize the lack of hijab and concentrate on promoting the hijab
In this scenario, appearing in public without the hijab would no longer be treated as a criminal act. Instead, the government would take actions to educate and promote the wearing of the hijab. The report, however, points out that since this scenario would take a long time to show results, its immediate consequence would be that “bad hijab” in public would spread.
3. Continue the present policies and practices
Considering the practical limitations that policymakers face in this area, this scenario maintains that it is better to leave things as they are. Supporters of this scenario believe that any additional intervention by the regime, in any form, would make the “crisis” of hijab even worse.
4. Ignore “bad hijab” or no hijab
In this scenario, no laws would be changed, but “bad hijab” would be ignored. In a sense, individuals would be free to wear what they choose. Basically, this scenario would give more power to individual choice, ignoring the social consequences that the Islamic Republic now finds unacceptable.
5. Focus on media promotion of the hijab
In this scenario, the focus would be on promoting the hijab as culturally “valuable” and “beautiful”. In other words, the problem of bad hijab would be solved within a cultural context and by using cultural tools. One of the most important cultural tools is, of course, the media.
The hijab became compulsory after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but for years now a considerable number of women have been protesting the obligatory wearing of the hijab and this has caused concern among the ruling clergy. The project of Morality Patrols, or the Morality Police, was launched to ensure observance of the hijab and “proper” dressing, and to discourage the use of cosmetics. But the project has many opponents and a number of officials in the government, the judiciary and the police have confessed that it has not been very effective.
It is questionable whether this report would do anything to change the situation or could bring the opposing sides within the regime together. However, in any case, it confirms the fast growing opposition to the compulsory wearing of the hijab among Iranians, even among those who profess belief in the wearing of the hijab as an individual choice.
More on the fight against the forced wearing of the hijab in Iran:
The Wind in Her Hair, May 31, 2018
Guards Arrest “Revolution Woman” Maryam Shariatmadari, April 27, 2018
The Regime’s Tactics Against Iran’s “Revolution Women”, February 2018
People Want the Choice on Hijab — But the Regime Won't Listen, February, 2018
The Man Who Joined Revolution Women, February, 2018
More Women Protest by Removing their Hijabs, January, 2018
The Woman Who Stood Up Against Forced Hijab, January, 2018
Hijab Forced on Maryam Mirzakhani After Death, July 17, 2017
Hijab Patrols: Coming to a Hospital Near you, August 30, 2016