An Iranian member of parliament has said that partisan politics is costing the government the power to implement a coherent policy on veiling. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, who is also an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and related to him through marriage, appeared on the popular television program “Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow” and spent considerable time discussing veiling in Iran.
“One of our problems in our struggle with veiling is that we do not make a united statement,” Haddad-Adel said. “One person says cultural work must be done, another says we have to confront this issue with organized institutions. These multiple statements and seasonal actions have ruined the work. The power of the establishment is lost through such actions.”
Haddad-Adel pleaded with officials inside President Hassan Rouhani’s administration to “not say things that give comfort” to those who break cultural norms.
At the beginning of every summer, Iranian authorities prioritize enforcing proper veiling. This year, however, the issue has received traction in the media for a variety of reasons. The arrest of young men and unveiled women dancing in the tribute video to Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and their high-profile public confessions have also brought discussion of the veil and cultural issues to the public.
Another cause is the viral Facebook campaign “My Stealthy Freedom,” started by Iranian journalist in London Masih Alinejad, that encourages women to post pictures of themselves without the veil as a form of protest. The page has over 400,000 likes. A two-minute video of a woman walking in Tehran without the veil has also gone viral. She walks down a busy street and, interestingly, very few people acknowledge or even notice her. The video has been shared by a number of Persian-language Facebook pages.
The issue of poorly veiled women is not the fault of policymakers, according to Haddad-Adel. Rather, he describes the challenges as having to do with “environmental variables” and the lack of a clear division of responsibilities among different bodies within the government. Haddad-Adel believes that the government needs systematic planning to address the issue and even suggested subsidies be offered to factories that produce veils.
Haddad-Adel said that the issue of veiling was important for him even before the 1979 revolution and that he has written a number of books on the topic. He described the issue as so relevant that “many people, before even complaining about prices or the economy, talk about their concerns over veiling.”
In Iran, veiling is enforced by the police, who operate under the purview of the supreme leader. However, Rouhani’s statements about not using “force” on cultural issues has caused a great deal of concern among conservatives. His office’s tweet in support of the group that participated in the "Happy" video also upset a member of the Expediency Council, Mohammad Hossein Safar-Harrandi.
“With a big propaganda media attack by the West, a movement has started in the world under the name “Happy” that encourages Muslims, Christians and atheists and anyone with any belief to share their happiness with others,” Safar-Harrandi said. “A group in our country who was unveiled and dancing in the open and filming became a part of this movement [and] they were warned. And the president, by taking a position, supported them.”
Safar-Harrandi added that rather than supporting violators, as Rouhani did with over Twitter, “When actions that break norms are taken, they should be reproached.”
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