Authorities in the Iranian capital of Tehran have said police will soon stop arresting women for violating Islamic dress codes in a surprise move under President Hassan Rouhani’s leadership.
According to The Wall Street Journal, women who break Islamic teachings on the wearing of items such as nail polish, heavy make-up, and loosened scarves will no longer face arrest, and instead be sent to police-run classes on “Islamic values.” However, repeat offenders will ultimately be arrested.
“Based on a society-oriented, educational approach, the police will not arrest those who don’t respect Islamic values,” said Brig. Gen. Hossein Rahimi, according to the country’s official Islamic Republic News Agency. “It will instead educate them.”
President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected this year under a wave of support from young people who favored his so-called “moderate” positions.
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, the country has operated under a strict form of Sharia law and has become one of the most repressive countries in the world. Women are forced to wear hijabs at all times and are treated as second-class citizens under the law. Men also face arrest for failing to dress in an “Islamic” fashion.
Last year, Iran deployed around 7,000 undercover officers known as the “morality police” tasked with “confronting bad hijab and removal of veils inside cars” and preventing the harassment of women in the streets. Last week, Iranian police raided two large parties in Tehran and arrested 230 people for drinking and dancing on charges of sinful activity.
A shift towards more liberal attitudes is currently taking place in Iran’s rival Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Mohammed Bin Salman, whose gender equality reforms form part of a wider modernization movement known as the “Vision 2030” economic program.
This year alone, bin Salman has lifted a ban on women driving, legalized yoga, held the first women’s basketball tournament, and even opened positions for Saudi women to work in the Ministry of Justice.