July 16, 2007 / 6:43 PM / 10 years ago

Iran police step up crackdown on unIslamic dress

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iranian police stepped up a crackdown on Monday on women ignoring strict Islamic dress codes, including sending newly trained women officers to help “guide” violators, a police official said.

Police in the Islamic Republic had said they would intensify a drive in the next few days against women whose veils do not cover their hair properly, or whose overcoats are too short.

Such crackdowns occur annually in early summer but this year’s has been longer and more severe than in the recent past.

“Our (police) colleagues will give necessary notification to those who won’t act within the social norms of society,” Mehdi Ahmadi, head of the police information centre, told Reuters.

He said women who ignored police advice would be taken to police stations “to improve their behavior”. The main effort against such violations will go ahead as announced in the Iranian month of Mordad, beginning July 23, he added.

An Iranian rights group on Saturday criticized a range of abuses including the new crackdown on dress. It said some 488 men and women had been detained in the campaign’s early stages.

Witnesses noted a heavier than usual police presence in some Tehran squares on Monday, including downtown Haft-e Tir square, where officers watched passers-by from a parked police van and car. No one was seen to be stopped.

Ahmadi said that in Vanak, another big square in the capital, about a dozen people had been “guided to police centers to improve the way they were dressed and behavior”.

Newly trained women officers had been sent onto the streets to help with the initiative, he said.

Under sharia, Islamic law, imposed after Iran’s 1979 revolution, women are obliged to cover their hair and wear long, loose clothing to disguise their figures and protect their modesty. Violators can receive lashes, fines or imprisonment.

Many young women, particularly in wealthier urban areas, challenge the limitations by wearing calf-length Capri pants, tight-fitting, thigh-length, brightly colored coats, and their scarves pushed back to expose plenty of hair.

The Islamic dress code is less commonly challenged in poor suburbs and rural regions.

Since hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency in 2005 after promising a return to the values of the revolution, hardliners have pressed for tighter controls on “immoral behavior”.

Iran has repeatedly rejected criticism by rights groups of such crackdowns, saying the country’s efforts were aimed at “fighting morally corrupt people”.

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