Iranians based in the city of Mashhad report that women and girls are now being blocked from using public bicycles.
The city in northeast Iran is home to the Shrine of Imam Reza and is a regular destination for Shia Muslim pilgrims. On Monday, it emerged that women trying to use shared bikes in the city center via a dedicated mobile phone app have been greeted by an apparently new, automated message.
“Dear lady,” it reads. “The use of shared bicycles has been provided for you in women's parks. Please refer to those parks to use the service. Thank you for your cooperation”.
Local journalist Arash Hashemi tweeted screenshots of the messages he had received from female would-be users of the service provided by Mashhad Municipality. “Women’s use of shared bicycles has been banned,” he told followers.
The move comes after Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, Mashhad’s Friday imam, used a June 2020 sermon to call for a ban on women cycling in public spaces, declaring this activity should take place “away from men”.
Alam al-Hoda further claimed that the sight of women cyclists inevitably "set fire to the instincts of young people”. The “flames”, he said, were ”uncontrollable”.
A fatwa against women cyclists was issued by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2016 but has been patchily enforced. Women in Isfahan in central Iran were banned from cycling last December after the city council was told to “take action” by Friday Imam Ayatollah Seyed Abolhassan Mahdavi.
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