Iranians asking whether to abolish or continue headscarf requirement

Middle East Monitor (18.11.2022) – – Iran – Following the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini this September, the controversy over Iran’s headscarf requirement resurfaced, with some prominent figures in the country openly criticising the rules, Anadolu News Agency reports.


Iran has been gripped by mass unrest since mid-September over the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who died in custody after being arrested by the country’s morality police.


At least 342 people, including 43 children and 26 women, have been killed by security forces during ongoing nationwide protests in Iran, according to a human rights group.


First, on 25 September, the Union of Islamic Iran People Party asked that the government take the necessary legal steps to abolish the mandatory headscarf legislation.


President Ebrahim Raisi, when asked about the practices of the morality police in a 28 September state TV interview, said: “If it is thought that the method of implementation is incorrect and that new ideas exist, these new ideas can be discussed and implemented.”


“Values cannot be modified, but the manner in which the law is applied can be debated,” he said.


On the question of whether patrols should be reconsidered, Raisi said that the best practices should be considered in enforcing the law and that they must provide a platform for dissenting views.


He also implied, however, that they have no plans to overturn the headscarf law.


During this time, some of Iran’s most prominent figures spoke out against the mandatory headscarf requirement. Former Parliament Speaker, Ali Larijani, is among them. In an 11 October newspaper interview, Larijani emphasised that the protests have deep political roots and urged a modification of the mandatory headscarf law.



On 17 September, retired Brig. Gen. Hossein Alaei, the former Navy Commander of the Revolutionary Guards Army, similarly questioned the patrols of the morality police.


He said it should be asked if the required headscarf practice has a place in religion, suggesting that it might make more sense to deploy patrols against thieves who steal women’s phones and handbags.


Some religious figures, while in limited numbers, challenged the compulsory headscarf application, which has been enforced since Iran’s revolution in 1979.


Following the revolution, prominent religious figures such as Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti and Ayatollah Mahmoud Taleghani are among the few clergy who reject the mandatory headscarf.


There are now relatively few clerics in Iran who openly condemn the headscarf requirement.


Further reading


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Photo credits: Stringer – Anadolu Agency