More Iranian actresses summoned for not wearing hijab

This week alone, a sports federation chief resigns and several more actresses face charges over mandatory hijab law.

An unveiled woman standing on top of a vehicle as thousands make their way towards Aichi cemetery in Saqez, Mahsa Amini's home
A wave of unrest has rocked Iran since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died on September 16, 2022, following her arrest by the morality police in Tehran for allegedly breaching strict rules on hijab and modest clothing [File: UGC/AFP]

Tehran, Iran – Iran’s judiciary has summoned two more well-known actresses for taking off their headscarves in public as they continue their efforts to crack down on violations of the country’s hijab laws, which have now gone beyond celebrities to encompass businesses and sports events.

State-affiliated media reported on Monday that judicial cases had been lodged against 37-year-old Baran Kosari and 44-year-old Shaghayegh Dehghan for not fully adhering to hijab laws, which were passed shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Kosari is accused of attending the funeral for a fellow actor on Friday without a headscarf while Dehghan had been photographed with her hair visible during a book unveiling in a cafe in Tehran a day later.

They join a growing list of prominent figures in Iranian cinema who have been charged over the hijab laws.

Fatemeh Motamedaria and Afsaneh Baygan, two veteran actresses, had judicial cases lodged against them last week after they participated in an event to commemorate another actor.

Veteran actor Reza Kianian, 71, was also charged after, at the same event, he defended a women’s “right as a citizen” to take off their headscarves.

In late April, police confirmed that well-known actresses Katayoun Riahi and Pantea Bahram have had their cases referred to the judiciary for the “crime of removing their hijab in public and publishing its images in the virtual space”.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Salehi said a number of celebrities have not answered judicial summons, and he threatened they would be arrested if they continue to refuse to do so.

Many actresses joined a growing number of Iranian women in taking off their hijabs after the September death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who was arrested by the country’s so-called morality police for allegedly not adhering to hijab laws. The incident triggered months of protests across the country.

Translation: Baran Kosari today at a funeral #Hossam_Mahmoudi_Farid #Baran_Kosari

But as street protests gradually subsided and acts of civil disobedience like taking off the hijab lingered, authorities have stepped up their efforts – albeit apparently in a less physically confrontational way.

Instead of resorting to morality police vans and officers, authorities are now monitoring hijab violators through smart cameras, sending warnings and then impounding vehicles, shutting down businesses and focusing on celebrities.

The Opal Shopping Centre in western Tehran and its hundreds of shops were closed for several days in late April after warnings.

Following its reopening, two shops were again shut down after they suggested on their social media pages that they would offer discounts to women without hijabs.

But the’ crackdown is increasingly gaining new dimensions.

Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri wrote a letter to Transport Minister Mehrdad Bazrpash on Sunday to remind him of a “legal obligation” to enforce hijab laws for passengers in all airplanes.

On the same day, online videos showed women participating in a marathon run in the southern city of Shiraz without headscarves or long-sleeved shirts and more female spectators with their heads uncovered.

Hesham Siami, head of the Iranian athletics federation, resigned after the video was posted. The province’s attorney general said an “investigation” had been launched, and local officials were summoned to provide explanations.

A number of men have also taken to wearing shorts in public, which is prohibited. The secretary of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, Abdolhossein Khosropanah, said last week that men who have “inappropriate hijab” must also face legal consequences.

Source: Al Jazeera