TEHRAN (AFP) — Tehran police have arrested 29 women for appearing in public without a headscarf as protests against the dress code in force since the Islamic revolution of 1979 intensify, Iranian media reported.
Those arrested were accused of public order offences and referred to the state prosecutor’s office, the Fars, ILNA and Tasnim news agencies reported without elaborating.
Chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had played down the escalating protests on Wednesday, saying they were “trivial” and “childish” moves possibly incited by foreigners.
He had been asked about a woman detained earlier this week for standing on a pillar box in a busy street waving her headscarf on the end of a stick.
Unprecedented images of at least 11 women protesting the same way had been widely shared on social media.
A prominent human rights lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that one of the detained women had her bail set at more than $100,000.
Montazeri said those flouting “hijab” rules — which require headscarves and modest clothing — must have been encouraged by outsiders.
But even religiously conservative Iranians have voiced support for the protests, with many saying that religious rules should be a personal choice.
Women have increasingly flouted the Islamic republic’s clothing rules in recent years and often let their headscarves fall around their necks.
Morality police once rigidly enforced the rules, but are a much less common sight since Iranian President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, promising greater civil liberties.