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Iranian Police Chief Targets Women Cyclists, Roller Skaters

Iranian women's cycling team

The new police chief of the Iranian city of Isfahan says it is a crime for women to cycle or roller-skate in public, RFE/RL's Radio Farda reports.

The two were among a range of women's activities deemed criminal by Hassan Karami in an announcement on October 18.

Further criminal activities include singing near Isfahan's famous Khajoo Bridge and playing volleyball in public. Karami also said that it is a crime for either sex to play cards in public parks.

Karami said police will "severely prosecute" offenders. He added that the number of police stations and patrols in Isfahan should be increased in order to combat crime in the city.

Tehran-based lawyer Ahmad Bashiri told Radio Farda on October 19 that for an act to be considered a crime, there must be a defined punishment under the law, so that the crime can be prosecuted.

"Singing is not in itself a crime," Bashiri said. "But if it inconveniences the public, or if the song contains obscene words, then it can be considered a crime."

By contrast, playing cards or gambling in public is considered a crime under Iranian law, Bashiri added.

Whether women should be permitted to ride bicycles has been a controversial issue in Iran for a long time. One month ago, Tehran Friday Prayers leader Ahmad Khatami said he had received "worrying news" about women riding bicycles on the streets of Tehran. Following his statement, Tehran police began confronting women cyclists.

Bashiri said that when someone says it is a crime for a woman to ride a bicycle, he should explain the legal basis for that statement. The police have no right to make arbitrary decisions based on their own interpretation of the law, Bashiri claimed.