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Ahmadinejad, The Hijab, And Women In His Car

Don't have any doubts about Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's support for the Islamic hijab, says one Iranian legislator, Tabibeh Safayi. She has recently pointed to some of Ahmadinejad’s actions to demonstrate the president's apparent belief and support for the Islamic dress code.

“Several times when I was with the wife of the president in his car, and the president who was also in the car, [Ahmadinejad] asked the driver to put down the front mirror so that the faces of [the women] sitting in the back wouldn’t be seen in the mirror.”

This assurance comes after a number of conservatives have criticized the Iranian president for saying that he opposes the dress crackdown that has intensified in Iran in recent weeks.

Ahmadinejad said in a June 12 television interview that the government has “no role” in the fight against “bad veiling” and social behaviors that are considered un-Islamic and immoral.

“The government has nothing to do with it and doesn’t interfere in it. We consider it insulting when a man and a woman are walking in the streets and they’re asked about their relationship. No one has the right to ask about it,” the Iranian president said.

A hard-line cleric, Ahmad Khatami, who is usually a supporter of Ahmadinejad, accused him of belittling those who have concern for moral chastity. “This wave is being advanced by the great sources of emulation, Friday prayer leaders, parliamentary deputies, and each and every single pious individual. The majority of the people who staged rallies in favor of the hijab are the very same people who voted for the president himself. The least that they expect of him is that he shares their concerns," Khatami said.

The head of the parliament's clerical faction, Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, also blasted Ahmadinejad by saying that the Iranian president has given a “green light” to immodest dressing. "Those who voted for you were the fully veiled people. The badly veiled 'greens' did not vote for you, so you'd better consider that what pleases god is not pleasing a number of corrupt people," Rahbar was quoted as saying.

RFE/RL's Radio Farda quotes another conservative legislator, Ali Motahari, as saying that Ahmadinejad made the comments about the hijab crackdown under the influence of his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Motahari said that if the government wants to oppose the dress crackdown, it is like opposing “the rule of Islam.” “We actually have to say that in the current period the enforcement of the hijab and chastity plan is being carried out with good programming and it has had a positive effect,” Motahari said, while adding that Ahmadinejad has put his own work under scrutiny by questioning the crackdown, which according to him is being carried out by the Interior Ministry.

Safayi, the legislator who was in Ahmadinejad's car, said that while some of his comments might suggest that the president doesn’t believe in the enforcement of the Islamic dress code, she is convinced that women’s ”hijab and chastity” are among his major concerns.

Before his election in 2005, Ahmadinejad said that the way young men and women dress shouldn’t be the “main issue” in the Islamic Republic. Yet after coming into power, the dress crackdown intensified.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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