CHRI – Iranian actress Matin Sotudeh was summoned to the Guidance Court in Tehran for her attire at the premiere of “Maskharehbaz” (English title: “A Hairy Affair”) in the capital city on October 10, 2019.
Sotudeh’s neck-covering hijab, with her hair showing around her face and a buttoned-up, long-sleeved tunic that was tucked into belted pants, resulted in the 34-year-old film star being ordered to appear in court after “numerous requests” by unnamed individuals, according to an October 15 article by the ultra-conservative Tasnim News Agency.
Subsequently, the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry announced that it would soon draft guidelines on how members of Iran’s film industry should present themselves in public.
“The drafting of decency guidelines was proposed at a meeting yesterday [October 14] with representatives from the Guidance Ministry, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), the Sports Ministry, the judiciary and other relevant bodies,” said the announcement posted on the official website of the Iranian Organization of Cinemas and Audiovisual Affairs (IOCAA), the Guidance Ministry’s film industry watchdog organization.
Speaking to the country’s main state-funded TV channel, IRIB, on October 16, IOCAA head Masoud Najafi said he had issued an “emergency order” reminding celebrities that they should observe unspecified “principles and frameworks” to avoid consequences.
Facing a barrage of attacks from conservatives, Sotudeh removed photos of her red-carpet appearance from her Instagram page and issued an apology on October 16.
“Recently photos of me were published on social media, which were not intended to break any taboos whatsoever on my behalf,” she wrote. “The photos have been exploited by spiteful media organizations and upset some of our dear compatriots. I therefore apologize to all of them, including the families of the martyrs.”
In an interview with the conservative Sobhe-No (New Morning) newspaper on October 13, Sotudeh said she was surprised by the reaction to her attire since she had not done anything out of the ordinary.
“Honestly the reaction shocked me. Some people started to curse me on social media and I really don’t understand why,” she said. “I was not wearing something contrary to society’s circumstances. My clothes covered me, and my hair was the same as always… but in the past it did not become a big deal.”
Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, all women have been required to observe the hijab in public. To conform to state standards of Islamic modesty, women have since not been allowed to appear in public without a veil or their bodies uncovered.
State-mandated hijab-observance in Iran ranges from tent-like, head-to-toe veils to loose-fitting clothing that conceal female hair and skin, especially the skin of the neck, torso, arms and legs.
Throughout the decades, women in Iran have challenged this compulsory dress code by showing more skin and hair in their daily lives, as well as through targeted activism against the state-mandated head hijab.
Enforcement of the dress code for women in Iran is arbitrary. At times, security forces including so-called “anti-vice” squads may crackdown on people in the streets, harassing and detaining women for showing too much skin or hair. At other times, those same forces may look the other way when women appear in public in more liberal attire.
It’s unknown exactly why Sotudeh’s red-carpet appearance resulted in her being summoned to court. Despite being pressured to issue a public apology, she said she thought she was wearing “appropriate” attire for the occasion.
“It was not my intention to cause a scene at all,” she told Sobhe-No. “I just wanted to wear something appropriate for the occasion.”
“I picked some clothes from my closet and this was the result,” she added. “All this hoopla and exposure was strange to me. I did not intend to break any laws of the Islamic Republic or attract attention… I wish we would respect each other.”
Read this article in Persian.