Abolhassan Kayhani, from the western Hamadan province, reproached the women for walking their dog in a park that was near his home.
By Zachary Keyser
a male member of the Shia clergy of Iran has claimed that two Iranian women rammed him with their car after he reprimanded them in the street for violating one of Iran’s strict Islamic codes.
The clergyman, Abolhassan Kayhani from the western Hamadan province, reproached the women for walking their dog in a park near his home. In Iran, pets, and more specifically dogs, are considered “dirty” – with religious authorities oftentimes forbidding owners to walk their dogs in areas determined by the clergy, according to Radio Farda. Kayhani is the head of the local Propaganda Office.
Following his criticism, Kayhani claims that the women began “verbally abusing” him with rebuke, proclaiming that it is not within his authority to tell them where or when they can walk their dog in the public park. In Iran, however, members of the clergy as well as everyday citizens can approach anyone in the street and admonish them if they feel like are disobeying Islamic codes; five years ago, a law was passed to protect morality vigilantes.
During the confrontation, Kayhani attempted to phone the local police, by which time the women had promptly retreated to their car. While driving away, they ran over the clergyman, knocking him unconscious and onto the ground.
These types of clashes in the street between clergy and alleged offenders have become commonplace lately, with many of them appearing on social media – usually over discourse regarding proper use of compulsory hijab, with women physically or verbally confronting the “morality police officers.” With dogs becoming more popular pets in Iran, there have been numerous confrontations regarding this, and there will most likely be more.
Many women live in fear of the numerous restrictive regulations and discriminatory laws imposed on their lives – whether it be compulsory wearing of hijab, equal rights in marriage and inheritance, forced polygamy, domestic as well as sexual abuse and even political dissidence for attempting to invoke change. They fear being arrested, in trepidation that they will not receive a fair trial and end up spending many years in one of Iran’s notoriously inhumane prisons.
In August, three women who defied compulsory hijab in an online video were sentenced to 16-23 years each. All three got five years in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion to act against national security,” one year for circulating “propaganda against the regime” and ten years for “encouraging and preparing the grounds for corruption and prostitution.” In addition, one of the women received another seven-and-a-half years for “insulting the sanctities” – a total of more than 55 years.
Since Iran’s Islamic Revolution 40 years ago, women have been forced to cover their hair for the sake of modesty. Violators are publicly admonished, fined or arrested. There are also instructions for female clerks in many Tehran shopping centers to wear “the Maghna’eh” instead of a simple hijab, or face the possible consequence of having their business shut down.
In July, it was reported by ILNA, an Iranian state-run news agency, that Iran had notified and warned 66,000 drivers in the Gilan Province via text message that female passengers in the targeted vehicles had removed their veils at some point during the trip.
At least 39 women were arrested last year in connection with hijab protests, according to Amnesty, adding that another 55 people were detained for their work on women’s rights, including women who tried to enter football stadiums illegally and lawyers advocating for women.
Last year, many women took their peaceful protest against the strict dress code to the streets, holding their hijabs high above the crowds for all to see.
Male and female protesters have been taking part in the “White Wednesday” protests, inviting both sexes to wear hijabs, veils and bracelets in solidarity with those who feel the law is discriminatory and unethical. “White Wednesday” is also for women who choose to wear their hijabs and veils, but reject the notion that all women should be forced to conform to wearing them in public.
“What the last year has shown is that people in Iran, especially women, are no longer afraid to go out and protest, whether in large numbers or through lone acts of protest,” said Amnesty International’s Iran researcher Mansoureh Mills. “As the authorities try to clamp down on these peaceful acts of resistance, we are likely to see more and more women and men being arrested, detained and prosecuted for demanding their rights.”