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Understanding Iranian Regime’s Extremist Parliament and the “Hijab Bill” Delay

iran hijab morality police (1)

During a session held on August 13, several members of the Majlis, the Iranian regime’s parliament, suggested passing the “hijab and chastity” bill, as per Article 85 of the Constitution. The proposal was put up for debate and ultimately “accepted” with a majority vote. Official Iranian news agencies promptly released the voting results after the session, indicating that out of the 238 present representatives, 175 were in favor, 49 were against, and 5 abstained.

Under Article 85 of the regime’s Constitution, it is stated that

“The position of representation is bound to a personal capacity and not transferable to another. The parliament cannot delegate legislative authority to an individual or a body, but in necessary cases, it can delegate the power to enact certain laws to its internal commissions while observing Article Seventy-Two. In this case, these laws will be implemented on a trial basis during the period determined by the parliament and their final approval will be subject to the parliament’s decision.”

During the review of this bill, one of the drafters officially stated that if this bill is discussed in the open session of the parliament, considering the registration of “over 1600 amendments” by 59 representatives, it signifies “non-approval” of the bill. Using this rationale, the approval of the bill in the commission was deemed an appropriate solution for its “urgent” endorsement.

The “Hijab and Chastity Bill,” formally titled “Bill for the Protection of Family through the Promotion of Chastity and Veiling Culture,” is one of the initiatives of the authoritarian regime aimed at enforcing mandatory veiling in Iran.

This bill was prepared by the Judiciary following the temporary suspension of the morality police during the nationwide uprising in 2022. Upon submission to Ebrahim Raisi’s administration, the cabinet also approved it and sent it to the parliament in 2023. Initially comprising 9 articles, it expanded to 15 articles by the government and eventually, it was elaborated into 70 articles by the parliamentary Judicial Commission, even including clauses about the internet.

Despite indications that some factions within the regime are actively pursuing the approval of the “Hijab and Modesty” bill, the matter remains unresolved. In recent weeks, much like previous initiatives that aimed to increase fuel prices or further restrict the internet, there have been conflicting reports regarding the status of the hijab bill’s approval in the Majlis.

The underlying cause should be examined within the delicate status of the regime. Following the public outcry triggered by the state murder of Mahsa Amini due to “improper veiling,” which occurred while she was in the custody of the morality police, the mullahs were overwhelmed with politically motivated protests demanding an end to the clerical regime that initially started by revisiting the issue of women’s freedom to choose their attire.

Over the course of many years and decades, the ruling authorities used enacted laws to compel Iranian citizens, particularly women, to adhere to the state-imposed dress code. However, after the protests in 2022, the topic of mandatory veiling and the imposition of specific dress styles on women shifted into a contentious point of debate between Iranian citizens and the government.

While the matter of freedom of clothing is raised as a primary citizen demand, and the definite stance of the Iranian people during the 2022 protests encompassed much broader demands that reject both an authoritarian governance and religious imposition, this issue holds significant importance for the regime from various angles.

The misogynist theocracy believes, and rightly so, that if it submits to public demands, it will undoubtedly propel women’s advancement. Accordingly, when society witnesses that it was able to stand against the regime’s pressure, it generates considerable motivation and energy to progress towards toppling subsequent bastions, leading to the overthrow of the clerical regime.

Hence, the regime comprehends that it must resist and prolong the unavoidable until it becomes a matter of its very survival. Nevertheless, by using conflicting political maneuvers and media tactics, it aims to divert society’s attention toward the issue of clothing, thereby diminishing the significance of people’s demands and shifting the focus away from fundamental matters.

As a result, it’s clear that the regime’s approach in this matter is inconsistent, with one-day bringing announcements and the next day denials about the approval of the “hijab and chastity” bill. However, two other significant factors are also at play, preventing the regime from unifying its stance on passing this bill.

First, there’s a fear of igniting protests related to the “veiling” issue, especially as we approach the first anniversary of the 2022 protests.

Second, the regime is gearing up for parliamentary elections in February, an event the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei deems vital for claiming legitimacy and stability.

Considering these reasons, it’s apparent that at least until the post-anniversary period of the protests and the conclusion of the parliamentary elections, the regime finds itself in a complex deadlock concerning the approval of the “hijab and chastity” bill.