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Married Women in Iran Still Need “Permission” to Travel Abroad Under Amendment to Passport Law

Member of Parliament Parvaneh Salashouri (left) and human rights lawyer Farideh Gheirat (right).CHRI - An amendment proposed by the Iranian Parliament's Women's Block to the country's Passport Law does nothing to ease state restrictions on married women's ability to independently travel abroad, a legal expert told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Contradictory Laws Exasperate Debate Over Iranian Women's Observance of Hijab in Cars

CHRI - The growing number of women refusing to cover their hair while driving in Iran, especially during the hot summer months, has resulted in renewed threats of arrests for violations of the country's mandatory hijab law.

Iranian women spark debate by defying hijab rule in cars


Iranian women inside a car in TehranGuardian - Judiciary and police insist a car interior is public space but more women are defying authorities by driving with 'bad hijab'


Iranian women during celebrations in Tehran after Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers in 2015. Photograph: Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty ImagesView more sharing options

Saeed Kamali Dehghan Iran correspondent

Tuesday 11 July 2017 06.00 BSTLast modified on Tuesday 11 July 2017 07.57 BST

A growing number of women in Iran are refusing to wear a hijab while driving, sparking a nationwide debate about whether a car is a private space where they can dress more freely.

Obligatory wearing of the hijab has been an integral policy of the Islamic republic since the 1979 revolution but it is one the establishment has had a great deal of difficulty enforcing. Many Iranian women are already pushing the boundaries, and observers in Tehran say women who drive with their headscarves resting on their shoulders are becoming a familiar sight.

Clashes between women and Iran's morality police particularly increase in the summer when temperatures rise. But even though the police regularly stop these drivers, fining them or even temporarily seizing their vehicle, such acts of resistance have continued, infuriating hardliners over a long-standing policy they have had a great deal of difficulty enforcing.

Iran's moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, has argued that people's private space should be respected and opposes a crackdown on women who don't wear the hijab. He said explicitly that the police's job is not to administer Islam. Speaking in 2015, Rouhani said: "The police can't do something and say I'm doing this because God said so. That's not a police [officer]'s business."

Many in Iran believe that private space includes the inside of a car, but judicial authorities and the police have opposed that interpretation.

"The invisible part of the car, such as the trunk, is a private space, but this does not apply to the visible parts of the car," Hadi Sadeghi, the deputy head of Iran's judiciary chief, said last week.

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It is compulsory for women to wear a hijab in public in Iran. Photograph: Darren Staples/ReutersHis comments have prompted widespread reaction online, with one user posting a satirical picture showing a couple embracing in a car boot. Another user tweeted: "The police have said that only the boot is a private space... poor those of us who have a hatchback car [without a boot]... we don't have any private space."

Local media often refrain from directly criticising the mandatory hijab, but the debate over what constitutes a private space has allowed newspapers and even state news agencies to publish articles reflecting views from both sides.

"Private or not private?" asked an article carried by the state Irna news agency on Monday. "This is a question that has created a legal and religious discussion about private space within cars."

Hossein Ahmadiniaz, a lawyer, told Irna that infringing on people's private spaces was like infringing their citizen's rights, arguing that it was up to parliamentarians to define the private space and not the police.

"The law says that the space within a car is a private space," he said. "The government's citizen's rights charter [launched by Rouhani] also considers a car to be a private space and it is incumbent upon enforcers to respect that."

Rift between Iran's ayatollah and re-elected president widens

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Bahman Keshavarz, a leading lawyer, wrote an article in the reformist Shargh daily, arguing that wearing a so-called "bad hijab" (loose hijab) is not a crime under Iranian law.

Saeid Montazeralmahdi, a spokesperson for the Iranian police, disagreed. "What is visible to the public eye is not private space and norms and the rules should be respected within cars." He also warned car owners against using tinted glass to prevent onlookers from seeing into the car.

The debate is not only among liberal Iranians. Abolfazl Najafi Tehrani, a cleric based in Tehran, tweeted: "People's cars, like people's houses, are their property and a private space and infringing upon this space will disturb people's moral security and will harm women's trust with the police."

Yahya Kamalpour, a member of the Iranian parliament, said: "The space within people's cars is a private space and the police has no right to enter that space without a judicial order."

The debate comes amid a growing rift between the government and the hardline judiciary that acts independently of Rouhani's government.

Despite restrictions, women are increasingly active in Iranian society. It emerged on Sunday that Iran Air, the country's national airline, has for the first time appointed a female CEO. Rouhani is also under pressure from his voter base to nominate a record number of female ministers in his cabinet reshuffle next month.

In a sign of slowly changing attitudes, Ali Karimi, a veteran Iranian footballer, on Monday called on the authorities to allow female fans to attend stadiums alongside men.

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Iranian Soccer Stars Call For End To Ban On Women Spectators

Former Bayern Munich player Ali Karimi has added his voice to those calling for Iranian women to be allowed into major sports events. (file photo)RFL/RE - Two prominent Iranian footballers have called for lifting a ban on women attending major men's sports events, adding to pressure from women's rights activists long battling the prohibition.


Ali Karimi, who is widely regarded as one of the best Iranian players of all time, expressed hope on July 10 that "the conditions are set with the help of" President Hassan Rohani and the Iranian Football Federation (FFIRI) "for women to enter stadiums" as spectators.

"This is the demand of millions upon millions of female fans who'd like to watch football matches and other events up close," Karimi, a former midfielder for Iranian and European clubs who now coaches Naft Tehran, was quoted by the semiofficial ISNA news agency as saying. "This important issue is not impossible, this dream of female sports fans can be achieved through correct planning."

Weeks earlier, Iranian national team captain Masud Shojaei called on Rohani to lift the ban.

Flood Of Passion

"I think it is the dream of many Iranian women who are football fans," Shojaei, who has represented Iran at two World Cups, said in a video clip that was shared widely on social media. "I think if [the ban is lifted] we would have to build a stadium that could hold 200,000 spectators, because we see the flood of passion from our ladies."

"I hope it happens very, very soon," he added.

Both appeals seemed intended to spur Rohani into pushing the country's conservative, religiously dominated leadership into some of the mild reforms that he espoused when he was elected in 2013 and reelected again in May.

Iran's national soccer captain Masud Shojaei (file photo)

Iran's national soccer captain Masud Shojaei (file photo)

Shojaei had reportedly raised the request in a June 14 meeting with Rohani after Iran's side qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The video was reportedly recorded at the venue of the meeting with Rohani.

Rohani campaigned on pledges that included fewer social restrictions, but he has faced opposition from influential hard-liners in Iran's mostly unelected power structure.

In recent years, government officials have issued conflicting statements over whether the ban on women entering stadiums might be lifted, and only a limited number of women -- many of them foreigners -- have occasionally been allowed in as spectators at mass sports events.

Islamic Norms

Authorities claim the stadium ban is enforced to protect women and Islamic norms. They say the atmosphere is inappropriate for women because of revealing athletes' uniforms and the prevalence of crude language.

But women's rights advocates say the ban is simply one of the more blatant examples of gender discrimination in Iranian society, where women are expected to maintain a strict dress code and are discouraged from being seen in public with male nonrelatives, and women's testimony carries less weight than a man's.

Women have occasionally defied the ban and entered stadiums, sometimes dressed as men.

In June 2014, several women were detained when they tried to go to an international volleyball event at Tehran's Azadi stadium.

Prominent Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi documented the debate in his award-winning movie Offside, about female football fans who are detained after attempting to enter a stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match. The movie was filmed in Iran but banned domestically.

Some of Rohani's supporters have publicly called for the lifting of the ban.

"Entering stadiums is an Iranian woman's right," said a hand-written sign at a May campaign event in Tehran.

Golnaz Esfandiari

Golnaz Esfandiari is a senior correspondent with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Persistent Iranian Women's Movement Chipping Away at State Ban on Females in Sports Stadiums

CHRI - The peaceful battle by women's rights activists geared towards ending the ban on female spectators in Iranian sports stadiums is inching forward despite ongoing opposition by religious conservatives.

Officials Warn Strict Punishment for Iranian Women Caught Wearing “Bad Hijabs” as Summer Heat Begins

CHRI - Women caught with "bad hijabs" in Mazandaran Province, northern Iran, will face criminal prosecution and their vehicles will be impounded, warned a local prosecutor on June 27, 2017.

Female Prisoners of Evin Prison Deprived of Proper Medical Treatment

Female Prisoners of Evin Prison Deprived of Proper Medical TreatmentHRANA News Agency – while sending political prisoners to clinics is always done with great difficulty by the judicial-security institutions, however, female prisoners, in particular women’s ward of Evin prison inmates suffer from severe deprivation, due to shortage of female security forces.

Ailing Political Activist Detained Without Charge Subjected to Three-Month Solitary Confinement and Renewed Interrogations

CHRI - Hengameh Shahidi's Family Under Media Ban

More than three months after her arrest and detainment, ailing political activist Hengameh Shahidi has not been charged and is in poor health while being subjected to interrogations and solitary confinement in Evin Prison, an informed source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Some Female Sports Fans Allowed to Watch Men’s Volleyball Match in Tehran, But Ban Persists

CHRI - After being denied entry into Iran's sports stadiums since 2012, hundreds of women were allowed inside Tehran's 12,000-seat Azadi Arena on June 9, 2017 to watch a FIVB World Volleyball League match between Iran and Belgium.

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