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Iran’s suppression of women causes some to dress as men to avoid police harassment

The government of Iran, which strictly curtails women’s rights in accordance with its interpretation of proper conduct and morality, maintains its control over women through “morality police” who enforce penalties on women for not wearing a hijab.

This policy has led some women to cut their hair short and dress as men in order to avoid police harassment. The hijab, which is a hot-button issue in Iran, has been perceived by many as a symbol of the repression of women inside a fundamentalist regime. Iranian women have taken to social media sporting short hairstyles and wearing men’s clothing to avoid a confrontation with police.

The Iranian government has cracked down on women who engage in such acts as walking the streets of Tehran with their heads uncovered. It reportedly detained eight models for appearing unveiled in images.

An image that has gone viral on social media depicts an unveiled woman with short hair and wearing men’s clothing in a taxicab. The caption explains that she does so in order to avoid the morality police. Similar images have become more numerous recently as the issue has heightened in sensitivity.

Despite President Rouhani’s promise of reining in the power of the morality police, they have not diminished in prevalence since his election. Rouhani faced significant pressure from the Iranian parliament to not reduce the number of morality police on the street, which they claimed would precipitate a “cultural onslaught” by the West.

The president does not directly control the morality police, who enforce an ill-defined dress code. Although levels are lower than under Ahmadenijad, they remain very high and now move stealthily rather than standing in the middle of crowded public spaces.

Public figures in Iran, in which women face various forms of repression, have repeatedly voiced their support for suppressing women. In April, Mullah Ahmad Khatami of Tehran described dissent on social media as a form of “counterrevolution” that results from being “deceived by Satan.”

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