April 28, 2016


Why so many Iranians have come to hate the hijab : Over the years the state crackdown on women's dress has become more of a show to placate the country's hardline base. Our correspondent shares stories from her personal repertoire illustrating the point (Denise Hassanzade Ajiri,  28 April 2016, The Guardian)

As time went by, the younger generation gradually became accustomed to the morality police, then known as komiteh. Just one encounter with them, and the spell of dread was broken. You were not scared of them any more. At least those in my circle were not.

During the early 1990s, the komiteh arrested my sister and her friend on the street. They were on their way to buy ice cream when a van pulled up beside them. A woman in black chador opened the van door and asked them to enter. Frightened, my sister and her friend ran toward an idling taxi a few meters away and jumped in. The van shot forward and veered in front of the taxi. Two soldiers leaped out and pointed their guns at the car while the woman in chador shouted at the top of her lungs for my sister and her friend to get in the van. They did.

Accompanied by other women, mostly young, who had similarly been arrested, they were driven to Vozara Detention Center where a group trial date was scheduled. A few hours later, my parents took my sister home. My mother was stunned, my father confused. My sister, who was then in middle school, had a very different take. She entered our house with a wide smile on her face, telling me it was the "coolest experience". She excitedly described how all the women were singing and clapping as they waited together in a communal cell. A few of their fellow scofflaws, apparently regulars at that particular detention center, were handcuffed. As my sister and her van companions entered the cell, one of them held her hands up in the air and shouted, "Hey kids! Check this out! They have given me bracelets!"

A few days later, the girls in the van showed up for their group trial and were fined 5,000 tomans each - the equivalent then of less than 20 dollars.

In the early 2000s, my dad was driving my sister back from a class when, a few blocks from home, they were stopped by the morality police.

"What's the relation between you two?" a male agent asked my father.

"She's my daughter," he calmly replied.

"Why are you in the car with this man? Who is he?" a female agent asked my sister.

"He's my dad," she calmly replied.

The agents asked for documents that could prove these incredible claims. My father and sister didn't have any. The agents talked between themselves for few minutes and let them go. By this point, no one took such encounters to heart. Hearing the story, my mom responded with an incredulous "What?" I just laughed.

This was during the reformist presidency of Mohammad Khatami, when many of us young people felt emboldened to publicly bend the morality rules and even, yes, protest. One night around that time, four of us were tooling down the Modarres Highway when a police car signaled for us to pull over. My sister's boyfriend was behind the wheel, while she rode shotgun. I was in the rear alongside my boyfriend, who'd been smoking out the window.

One policeman exited the car and walked toward us.

"What's the problem, officer?" my sister's boyfriend asked.

"This lady was sitting improperly," he said, pointing at me. I was resting my knees on the back of the front seat.

I'm certain that none of us were scared. My sister even chuckled quietly. I got angry and started shouting and crying. I felt insulted. It was the policeman, if anyone, who seemed less than sure of himself. He apologized, asked us to sit "properly", and invited us to go.

Posted by at April 28, 2016 7:41 PM