“We are not backing down on the hijab,” Seyyed Ali Khan-Mohammadi, spokesperson for the Headquarters for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, also known as the morality police, assured the public. But, at the same time, he also emphasized a memorandum of understanding his organization signed with the Judiciary and the Basij, strictly prohibiting Basij members from enforcing hijab legislation. In a separate incident, regime media widely reported on the presence of an unveiled woman in the November 6 pro-regime rallies commemorating the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.
These seeming contradictions in the morality police spokesperson’s statements and the incident of the unveiled woman have left the Iranian public confused. But the regime appears to have reached the conclusion that it is facing bigger challenges than women’s head gear, or lack thereof, but can’t formally stop enforcement of the hijab, which would be interpreted as a concession to the protesters and perhaps encourage more protests for other causes. Just as important, having lost the battle for the compulsory hijab, the regime is turning to unveiled women in its propaganda to signal they too can be regime supporters.
- October 30: Khan-Mohammadi, quoted by Etedal, said: “The three-page memorandum of understanding with the Judiciary and the Basij was signed in order to utilize the popular capacities of the Basij. The Basij is a peerless popular organization, which will be utilized in culture and promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.” However, when the journalist asked him if the Basij will be engaged in the fight against what he called “bad hijab,” meaning when a woman’s hair is not completely covered, Khan-Mohammadi responded: “No, this is not about the fight against bad hijab. This is about popular capacities and education of Judiciary officers. There is no mention of hijab in the memorandum of understanding.” The journalist asked: “These days, we see that even in the presence of Basij forces, some ladies are walking around without a head scarf, and not even a warning is issued to them. Is removal of the hijab, at the level of removing the head scarf, acceptable by the Headquarters for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice?” Khan-Mohammadi responded: “Removal of the hijab is illegal according to our laws, and the Headquarters for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice will not back down with regard to the hijab. But what your question alludes to, the forces, well, they have entered the arena for a well-defined special mission and will solely deal with those who want to riot and disturb the public order, and they are not authorized to intervene in hijab-related issues. If we do our work with fervor, it may not be desirable for our society. The enemy is awaiting an opportunity for us to deal with a person with bad hijab. That case will be utilized by the enemy.” Asked if the headquarters will deal more decisively with women’s hijab issues “once calm has been restored,” Khan-Mohammadi answered: “The enemy wants to smash the head scarf as an iconic issue. Should this icon be smashed, it will press ahead with other matters.”
- November 4: Iran’s state-censored media, including Asr-e Iran, reported the presence of an unveiled woman in the pro-regime rallies commemorating the anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979.