Wednesday, May 10, 2006


From a View from Iran:

…Iran’s 911.

Saw a police minibus parked on Jordan Street. A bunch of young girls were crowded around it, their big hair lifting their scarves high above their heads.

What does proper Islamic dress mean? “It’s just fashion,” a friend answers. Holland’s Moroccan women who choose to wear Islamic dress all by themselves would be subject to harassment in Iran. Why? Fashion. That’s all.

A friend was picked up. “I knew enough to call 110 when the military police started harassing me and my friend. I mean, their job is to pick up wayward soldiers, not harass women. I got through to the police. ‘Give the phone to the military police,’ they told me.”

She did. The police told them that the way the two women were dressed was none of their business. “Hand the phone back to the women,” the officer on the other line said.

“We told them to leave you alone and quit harassing you. We will call back in ten minutes to make sure you are okay.”

The police called back in three minutes. They called again in ten minutes and again in twenty.

There are so many different police-type organizations roaming the streets of Iran: the Basigi on motorcycles, traffic cops who lazily direct the traffic into bigger and bigger jams, military police just kind of hanging out, diplomatic police, intelligence, and the police police, to name a few.

This is why when some mullahs got upset about plastic manikin breasts, only a few of the offending plastic breasts actually got sawed off. “Why didn’t all of them get sawed off?” a visiting friend asked me.

“Because the police actually have to *want* to enforce that law. It’s too perverse for most of them.”
An interesting piece, given the "Crackdown on Women’s Bad Islamic Behaviour" that was announced last month:
Iran will increase police patrols to enforce women's skirt lengths, proper head scarves and even curtail dog-walking during the summer.

"In our campaign, we will confront women showing their bare legs in short pants", said Tehran's police chief, Morteza Tala’i.

"We are also going to combat women wearing skimpy headscarves, short and form-fitting coats, and the ones walking pets in parks and streets" he added.
Women who do not wear the veil can face 10 days to two months' imprisonment, or a fine.
Skimpy headscarves? How ever will the men control themselves?

Not everyone's listening though:
"They surely wait for the beginning of the week to start seriously repressing", Hessam says. With her coloured hairs that come out from the scarf, and her coat curved out of jeans, Mina Elmi, a 21 year old coed, does not look much afraid. "I do not intend to change my practices. I refuse to be afraid", she says while adjusting her make up with audacity.

At her sides, Sepideh Yazdi, her partner of window shopping, is proud to show us her last purchases: light shoes with arrow ends, the last word for Tehrani modern women.
When an authoritarian regime imposes laws on how people should dress but neither the police nor the populace are willing to oblige, it leaves those in charge looking somewhat foolish. Good.


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