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Iranian Women Face Extortion And Abuse Amid Hijab Crackdown

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As Iran’s Islamic government tightens its grip on enforcing mandatory hijab, reports of extortion and abuse of Iranian women at the hands of hijab enforcement officers have surfaced.

According to information obtained by Iran International, instances of Iranian police officers demanding money from women to avoid hijab-related arrests have come to light. The coercion further extends to confiscating valuables and personal belongings from citizens.

Since the implementation of the new hijab enforcement plan, “Project Nour” on April 13, a wave of violent encounters targeting unveiled women has unfolded across various cities in Iran. Victims recount disturbing experiences of being accosted by Iran’s so-called “morality police”, with some revealing instances of sexual harassment.

In one account, a woman revealed that the police coerced her and several others into paying 100 million rials ($153) under threat of arrest or seizure of their vehicles.

In another account, after arresting a woman, the police officer took out a card from his pocket and demanded that the woman “deposit 120 million rials ($184)” into the account shown on the card as a condition to release her.

Furthermore, three additional women told Iran International that following their arrests upon arriving at the police stations and surrendering their belongings, they discovered upon release that their jewelry pieces were missing from their possessions. Their attempts to reclaim their belongings were met with hostility and denial by the officers responsible.

In addition to extortion, there have been numerous instances of confiscated cell phones, further infringing on the rights of those targeted by hijab enforcement officers.

The intensified crackdown on women had already escalated to the point where women were reporting physical assault and verbal sexual abuse during encounters with the morality police last week. 

The renewed emphasis on enforcing compulsory hijab regulations has been endorsed by Iran’s highest authorities, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Ebrahim Raisi, and the head of Iran’s judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei.

This new wave of egregious violations against women and girls in Iran has exacerbated the oppression they face, living under the rule of the Islamic Republic regime, particularly amidst a growing movement of nationwide hijab defiance.

Many mid-ranking clerics, some insider politicians and commentators have been voicing concern over the illegal and harsh enforcement measures. They warn that this will widen the gap between the population and the rulers, while increasing the chances of new unrest in the country.

In 2022, the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by the morality police led to months of nationwide protests, posing the biggest threat the Islamic government had faced in its four-decade rule. Security forces killed around 550 civilians and arrested 22,000 before the unrest was suppressed.