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Iranian Lawmakers Urge President to Enforce Women’s Dress Code

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Iranian Women Baring Necks in Sign of Moderation
The way women dress is a political marker in Iran, where policies and the enthusiasm of enforcement have changed with leaders since the 1979 revolution. Photographer: Behrouz Mehri/AFP via Getty Images

June 16 (Bloomberg) -- Two-thirds of Iran’s lawmakers have petitioned President Hassan Rouhani to enforce the wearing of head scarves, complaining that a Western “cultural invasion” is jeopardizing the country’s “virtuousness.”

“The veil and virtuousness are being targeted by Western satellite channels,” threatening to “tear apart the institution of the pure Iranian family,” about 195 members of Iran’s 290-seat parliament wrote in a letter published by the state-run Iranian Students News Agency yesterday. 

Rouhani, a moderate cleric elected a year ago, has voiced support for easing restrictions on the media and Internet access. He has also said he doesn’t support cracking down on dress codes and that veils, which along with long, loose coats have been mandatory since the 1979 Islamic revolution, don’t necessarily reflect a woman’s virtue.

While Rouhani hasn’t introduced major social changes, opponents who advocate strict adherence to the Islamic Republic’s laws and regulations are concerned his more flexible stance may endanger the political establishment.

Over the past decade, a growing number of young Iranian women have defied the dress code, wearing more colorful, shorter and tighter clothing. The deputies’ letter calls on Rouhani to “give the necessary instructions for the law to be implemented seriously,” ISNA said.

Last month a Facebook page, set up by an Iranian activist living in Britain, encouraged women in Iran to rebel by sending photographs of themselves unveiled in public. The campaign prompted a backlash by Iranian conservatives, including a Facebook page that seeks to identify the women in the photos and target them for arrest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Golnar Motevalli in Tehran at gmotevalli@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net Amy Teibel, Zoe Schneeweiss

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