Iran Tightens Hijab Laws A Year After Masha Amini's Death

Iran's parliament made a significant, yet controversial, move today by voting to toughen penalties for women who refuse to wear the hijab

by Faruk Imamovic
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Iran Tightens Hijab Laws A Year After Masha Amini's Death
© Getty Images News/Sean Gallup

Iran's parliament made a significant, yet controversial, move today by voting to toughen penalties for women who refuse to wear the hijab, or headscarf, and for individuals who support them. This development comes just days after the first anniversary of the tragic death of 22-year-old Masha Amini, who was arrested by Iran's moral police for allowing her hair to show beneath her headscarf—a violation of the country's strict Islamic dress code for women.

Amini's death while in custody incited months-long protests in Iran and sparked global outrage. The protests following Amini's death were not small feats of civil disobedience; they resulted in the killing of over 500 protesters and the arrest of an estimated 22,000 people.

The Far-Reaching Impact of the Amendments

The newly amended law has expanded its scope to include 70 provisions. Apart from targeting women and their supporters, the law also places responsibility on shop owners, who may now face penalties for serving women who do not wear headscarves.

Similarly, organizers of protests against the hijab mandate can also be held liable. The penalty for violating the new rules is severe—up to 10 years of imprisonment if found organizing violations of the dress code. Out of 290 seats in Iran's parliament, 152 deputies voted in favor of the amendments.

The legislation will now move to the Guardian Council, a clerical body responsible for constitutional oversight, for final approval. If ratified, the law will be enforced on a preliminary basis for three years.

The Underlying Issues and Continued Resistance

While Iran's clerical leaders view the Islamic dress code as a cornerstone of their governance, critics argue that the focus on attire overshadows far more pressing issues, such as corruption and mismanagement within the country.

The authorities have blamed the extensive protests that shook the Islamic Republic on Western influence, although they have failed to provide concrete evidence to support such claims. Despite the tightening grip of the law, a sizable number of women continue to defy the hijab mandate.

Their resistance fueled a campaign to tighten the law over this past summer. These women, along with many protesters, maintain that their grievances are multifaceted, encompassing not just the restrictive dress code but also the larger problems plaguing the Iranian society.

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