Welcome back to The Farda Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that tracks the key issues in Iran and explains why they matter.
I'm Mehrdad Mirdamadi, a senior editor and journalist at RFE/RL's Radio Farda. Here's what I've been following and what I'm watching out for in the days ahead.
The Big Issue
Iranian authorities have launched a new crackdown on women who violate the country's "hijab and chastity" law, which requires women and girls over the age of 9 to wear a headscarf in public.
The hijab became compulsory after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Many women have flouted the rule over the years and pushed the boundaries of what officials say is acceptable clothing.
But in recent weeks, women judged not to have respected the "complete hijab" have been banned from government offices, banks, and public transportation. The notorious Guidance Patrols, or morality police, have become increasingly active and violent. Videos have emerged on social media appearing to show officers detaining women, forcing them into vans, and whisking them away.
A July 5 order by President Ebrahim Raisi to enforce the hijab law has resulted in a new list of restrictions on how women can dress. In response, activists have launched a social media campaign under the hashtag #no2hijab to urge people to boycott companies complying with the tougher restrictions. On July 12, women's rights activists posted videos of themselves publicly removing their veils to coincide with National Day of Hijab and Chastity.
Why It Matters: The crackdown was launched soon after a speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on June 28, during which he said that "the God of 1981 is the same God as today." It was a reference to the year when Iran's new clerical establishment declared all political parties illegal, severely curtailed civil liberties, and arrested and executed hundreds of political dissents. Authorities used the brutal eight-year war with Iraq, which started in 1980, as a pretext to suppress dissent, impose widespread restrictions, and consolidate power.
More than 30 years later, the establishment is once again in need of what it has called "a harmonious obedience and united" society to confront "the enemy." If this cannot be achieved peacefully, Khamenei and his circle believe they can succeed by means used in the 1980s: brute force and suppression. As always, women find themselves on the front lines.
What's Next: The growing disconnect between the authorities and the public means strict rules around the hijab are increasingly difficult to enforce. The younger generation has been through strict Islamic education and exposed to state propaganda about the "ideal Islamic lifestyle." Yet they have consistently and continuously chosen to live differently despite government pressure.
Gholamhossein Mohseni, the head of the judiciary, recently said the non-observance of the hijab in major cities was the result of "systematic efforts led by the enemies of Islamic republic to publicize vulgarity and coarseness directed by foreign secret services." His comments appear to suggest that authorities will not back down, a move that is likely to toughen resistance among women.
Stories You Might Have Missed
Seven professors at Iran's Kermanshah University have been fired after a video of them performing a Kurdish folk dance at a graduation ceremony went viral, angering university officials. The video from the event, which was held on June 1 but only recently posted, shows several students and professors of both sexes dancing freely on a stage at the ceremony at the medical school in western Iran.
An Iranian lawmaker has said that the shortage of drugs in the country has reached a critical stage and the pharmaceutical industry is on the verge of collapse. Abdul Hossein Rohalmini said on July 6 that the 13 Aban Pharmacy, the biggest drug distributor in Iran, currently has a shortage of 356 pharmaceutical drugs. He said if this trend continues the country will face a "severe shortage" of medicines.
What We're Watching
Iran is waging a renewed crackdown on dissent, arresting several high-profile government critics including a reformist politician and three renowned filmmakers. The clampdown has coincided with rising anti-government sentiment and near-daily protests across the Islamic republic. The protests, often over economic grievances, have usually turned political, with protesters directing their fury at the clerical establishment. The recent arrests are likely a show of force and an attempt by authorities to sow fear among society.
Why It Matters: The establishment is confronted by multiple crises and an increasingly angry and disillusioned public. To regain control, the authorities are likely to use force and further curtail citizens' rights. Doing so would be increasingly difficult to justify, potentially leading to a showdown between government forces and the public.
That's all from me for now. Don't forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have.
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Until next time,