Tehran, Iran – Two renowned actresses in Iran have been charged for not wearing headscarves, as authorities intensify efforts to crack down on people violating the country’s mandatory hijab laws.
Iranian state media reported on Tuesday that Tehran police have referred Katayoun Riahi and Pantea Bahram to the judiciary, accused of “the crime of removing their hijab in public and publishing its images in the virtual space”.
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The well-known actresses could potentially face fines or prison terms if prosecuted.
Last week, photos of 53-year-old Bahram posing without a headscarf at a film screening went viral.
The 61-year-old Riahi, another veteran actress, was previously arrested in November on suspicion of “collusion against national security and propaganda against the establishment” after she became the first of her peers to post an image of herself online without a headscarf in support of nationwide protests that erupted in September.
The months-long protests began after Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, died following her arrest by the country’s so-called “morality police” for allegedly not adhering to the country’s hijab laws, which were adopted shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
During the protests, several other high-profile actresses, including Taraneh Alidoosti, took off their headscarves in solidarity and were subsequently arrested, prompting support from abroad.
A growing number of women across Iran have abandoned their mandatory hijabs since the protests, with streets and public places in Tehran and elsewhere increasingly seeing women without headscarves.
The authorities had largely refrained from cracking down on the women in public in recent months, and the green and white vans of the morality police have also been taken off the streets, but a notable shift has taken place this month.
Police chief Ahmadreza Radan, appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in January amid speculations about his predecessor’s shortcomings during the protests, has promised to “seriously” deal with people violating hijab rules that are central to the Iranian government’s ideology.
A number of women have since posted images of themselves online without headscarves, with some even doing away with the loose-fitting gowns that the country’s laws also require.
Authorities have announced the closure of dozens of businesses since Radan’s promise to use “smart” cameras to identify violators in public and crack down on businesses that served women not wearing the hijab.
On Tuesday, the state-linked Tasnim news website reported that the sprawling Opal Shopping Centre in western Tehran, where the sight of young women without headscarves has become commonplace, could soon be shut down entirely if its board members continue to ignore warnings.
Tasnim also said that restaurants owned by a number of celebrities, including actors and footballers, have received warnings and could face closures.
It reported that at least three pharmacies in Tehran have been shut down and more have received warnings while “guild units” affiliated with an unnamed ministry have also been warned.
However, authorities appeared to be adopting a less physically confrontational approach, and have instead boosted efforts to promote hijab as an Islamic and family virtue.
“Hijab is the legacy of mothers,” read countless banners across Tehran that include images of young daughters – and their mothers – with the type of hijab that is accepted by the authorities.