Friday , 1 March 2024

Tehran Hijab Enforcer: “I Need This Job to Feed My Children”

Iranwire – Zeinab, a single mother of three, is among women in Tehran who dedicate eight hours a day to safeguarding “chastity of society.”

Ismail, a resident of northern Tehran, spends his evenings patrolling the streets of northern Tehran to record the license plate numbers of vehicles in which women are not wearing the mandatory hijab.

These individuals are referred to as “hijab enforcers” by Islamic Republic officials.

Zeinab and other women from her neighborhood underwent several training sessions before embarking in July on her mission to warn women with uncovered hair.

She is part of a network responsible for “photographing and documenting” non-compliant individuals. 

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi denied issuing permits to individuals involved in the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” claiming their engagement was “spontaneous.”

And on November 24, he acknowledged that such an activity is a public duty.

Two days later, Etemad newspaper revealed a confidential document showing that hijab enforcers are organized under Vahidi’s supervision to “suppress” women.

In an interview with IranWire, Zeinab explains that she was forced to fend for her two daughters and her son alone after her husband abandoned the family. 

Desperate to make ends meet, she responded to a job opportunity suggested to her by a woman she worked for as a home cleaner. 

And on November 24, he acknowledged that such an activity is a public duty.

This job, described as a mission to safeguard “the chastity of society,” offered a prospect of financial security, with a monthly income and material benefits worth approximately 13 million tomans ($260).

Days after the woman introduced Zeinab to her husband, she was invited to participate in preparatory classes to become a hijab enforcer.

The classes began with lectures on hijab, described as a divine obligation, and the principles of the “Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.” 

Subsequent sessions focused on practical aspects of the job, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a group presence, avoiding confrontation with women who do not adhere to the strict dress code, and utilizing photography to document instances of non-compliance.

Zeinab and her fellow hijab enforcers then embarked on eight-hour patrols across Tehran, reminding women to cover their hair appropriately. 

“We only warn,” Zainab says. “We say, ‘My lady, my dear, your hijab, scarf, or shawl.'” 

Each group of hijab enforcers typically consist of eight women accompanied by several men. 

The men largely remain on the sidelines, but when a conflict arises between enforcers and defiant women they step in to support the female enforcers.

Zeinab acknowledges that occasional clashes occur during her patrols.

“We have been told that if we harm someone, we must be held accountable, and the headquarters will deny any connection with us,” she explains. “From the very first day, they said that if we hit someone, we would be responsible for it.”

“I won’t get involved in any conflicts because I need this job to feed my children. If something happens, no one would give a piece of bread to my children,” the woman adds.

Ismail tells IranWire that he works for eight to 10 hours daily in a poultry farm in Shahriar, near Tehran. 

After this job, he commutes to the capital, where he monitors and reports license plates of vehicles carrying women without head covering.

Ismail says he has received a “monitoring software” from the local paramilitary Basij force to identify cars with “bareheaded women.” 

For over four months, he has reported instances of “hijab violations” in the north of Tehran five days a week.

“The rich people in the north of Tehran are the agents of the West, the Israeli and American staff, trampling on the blood of my martyred father and people like me,” he says. 

Ismail’s father died in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

The man, who claims not to receive any money for his work, expresses frustration about being limited to reporting 40 cars every 24 hours. 

“Some days it takes me two hours to reach Niavaran neighborhood and half an hour to record the plate numbers of 40 cars. I input them into the software and then I have to go back.”

Ismail acknowledges that despite the intensifying crackdown on women without head covering, their number has not decreased. 

He attributes this to the judiciary’s lack of decisive action and the constraints put on the Basij force. 

“If they had left us, we would have put a scarf and a chador on women’s heads; it only takes a little determination and force,” he says.

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