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In the early days of the Iranian New Year celebrations this past March, Tehran police unexpectedly arrived at a local cafe with an order to close it for two days. The cafe had allegedly violated Iranian laws by serving women who didn’t wear headscarves, according to the police.

Following this incident, the cafe’s management was repeatedly summoned by authorities, pressuring them to instruct their patrons to abide by the hijab law. The owner, Mohammad, reluctantly complied by displaying a notice urging women to respect the law, while expressing his sentiment that enforcing hijab-wearing among women in Iran is a futile effort.

Government’s Response: Reinforcing the Hijab Law

In response to women-led protests since last fall, which evolved into nationwide demonstrations against the Islamic Republic, an increasing number of Iranian women have begun to disregard the hijab and adopt Western-style attire. This has led to an intensification of official attempts to uphold the law, especially as summer approaches and more women venture out in clothing that is considered to violate the modesty mandate.

In an effort to reestablish control, the government recently closed 150 businesses within a day for serving women who weren’t properly veiled. They also declared that surveillance cameras and other tools would be used to identify and penalize women defying the law, with sanctions including prosecution and car impounding according to Al Jazeera.

Unveiling the Resistance: Women’s Protest Against Mandatory Hijab

Despite these escalating measures, Iranian women continue to rebel against the hijab law. Their defiance has been catalyzed by numerous protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the country’s morality police, for not properly wearing her hijab. These women are calling for increased freedom and improved futures for their daughters, believing that the increasing numbers of women joining their cause will make it more challenging for the authorities to suppress the movement.

Impact on Businesses: Caught in the Crossfire

Despite the defiance of these women, fear of retribution is still prevalent. As reported by the reformist newspaper, Shargh, over 2,000 businesses across the country have been forced to close due to serving women not wearing the hijab. This places businesses in a difficult position, as they risk public boycott if they enforce the hijab law, but face closure if they don’t.

The Future Fight: More Than Just a Scarf

While the ongoing crackdown has sparked fear and uncertainty, it has also ignited a new determination among many Iranian women. They believe their decision to stop wearing the hijab in public is about more than just clothing – it’s a message to the government to respect their freedoms.

The hijab law continues to be enforced strictly in Iran, one of only two countries where it remains compulsory, the other being Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Despite this, it is now commonplace in certain areas of Tehran to see women without headscarves, a sight that would have been unthinkable before the protests began last September.

As the controversy rages on, the government has ramped up its efforts to control the situation. Recently, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared that removing the hijab is neither Islamically nor politically permissible. He alleges that women refusing to wear the hijab are being manipulated by enemy spies and agencies.

Despite the escalating enforcement measures and legal threats, many women are not backing down. Their fight has evolved into a broader movement for change and they hope it will pave the way for a better future for the next generation of Iranian women.

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