The reformist Etemad Melli newspaper quoted Shahroudi as saying: "Hauling women and young people to the police station will have no use except to cause damage to society.

"Tough measures on social problems will backfire and have counter-productive effects.

"Of course, we need to act against organised crime and thugs but when there is no necessity to take someone to a police station, there is no need to do it."

Arrest campaign

The arrest campaign - an annual pre-summer crackdown given greater prominence this year - is aimed primarily at women whose coats are seen as too tight, trousers excessively short or hijabs (headscarves) overly loose.

Mehdi Ahmadi, head of information of Tehran police, told Al Jazeera: "Some citizens may complain about the way the law is being enforced but they all agree with the plan itself."

It foresees handing out warnings and guidance to women found to have infringed its dress code of fully covering the head and bodily contours in public.

A fully-covered woman said: "this could be a successful [campaign] if the police insist on it and enforce it all year round."

Those who show resistance to change can be arrested and then be the subject to legal proceedings.

One woman who was arrested told Al Jazeera: "I think my clothing is very appropriate now, apart from my hair, which is showing.

"We cannot cover ourselves with more than this. And putting more pressure on us will make the situation worse."

Some conservatives have applauded the crackdown as important at a time when women are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable but it has not been overly popular on the street.