Iranian authorities launched a new campaign on July 16 to enforce the compulsory wearing of the Islamic headscarf for women as morality police return to the streets after a 10-month hiatus. This comes in the wake of nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini while in custody of the morality police. The protests had called for the overthrow of the longstanding theocratic rule in Iran.
Following a severe crackdown earlier this year, which resulted in the deaths of over 500 protesters and the detention of nearly 20,000 individuals, the protests had largely subsided. However, many women, particularly in Tehran and other cities, continued to defy the official dress code.
During the protests, the presence of the morality police on the streets had significantly diminished, and there were even rumours, later denied, that they had been disbanded. Despite this, Iranian authorities maintained that the rules regarding the compulsory hijab had not changed. The ruling clerics in Iran consider the hijab to be a crucial aspect of the Islamic revolution and regard more relaxed dress as a symbol of Western decadence.
On July 16, General Saeed Montazerolmahdi, a police spokesman, announced that the morality police would resume their activities of notifying and detaining women who were not wearing the hijab in public. In Tehran, the morality police were seen patrolling the streets in marked vans.
The hijab issue became a rallying point during the protests, with women playing a prominent role. The demonstrations quickly evolved into broader calls for the overthrow of the clerical rulers, as the predominantly young protesters accused them of corruption, repression, and detachment from the people. The Iranian government attributed the protests to a foreign conspiracy without providing evidence.
Numerous Iranian celebrities, including renowned filmmakers and actors, joined the protests. Several Iranian actresses were detained for appearing in public without wearing the hijab or expressing support for the protests. In a recent case, actress Azadeh Samadi was banned from social media and ordered by a court to undergo psychological treatment for “antisocial personality disorder” after attending a funeral wearing a cap on her head.