Photographs released by a semi-official Iranian media outlet of a Russian female military officer attending a public event without a head covering and wearing a short-sleeved shirt has triggered controversy inside Iran.
Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, published pictures on March 16. They showed the young Russian female officer at a press conference related to ongoing exercises between the Iranian, Russian and Chinese navies in the Gulf of Oman.
Six months into nationwide protests demanding more freedoms and women’s rights, the Iranian authorities have not backed down on the requirement for women and girls to conceal their hair with a headscarf, or hijab, and to wear loose fitting trousers under their coats while in public.
As Western officials are expected to abide to the Islamic Republic’s dress code when visiting Iran, many Iranians have taken to social media to criticize the country’s authorities for applying double standards.
"Do you have the courage to arrest this Russian officer who is not wearing a hijab? Isn't this country Islamic? Aren't there hijab laws in place? So why are you just standing idly by?" a Twitter user asked.
Some social media users recalled that Mahsa Amini, the 22-year-old woman who died in police custody in September 2022, had been arrested for allegedly not complying with the mandatory hijab laws.
A growing number of Iranian women have been flouting the hijab laws since Amini’s death triggered the protest movement that has swept Iran for half a year.
The controversy surrounding the outfit worn by the Russian military officer came two days after Bijan Nobaveh, a member of the parliement's Cultural Commission, presented a 7-point proposal to better enforce the mandatory hijab rules.
"Instead of introducing new laws for the hijab, you should have shown your religious honor" at the press conference with the Russian military, lawyer and political activist Muhammad Reza Safari wrote in a tweet.
This is not the first time the clothing worn by a Russian female official during a visit to Iran sparks controversy.
Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, accompanied Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Tehran in June 2022. During an official meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Zakharova was wearing a headscarf and a manteau, but her legs were not covered.