Iran’s Guidance Patrol preys on women

On Tuesday, July 19, 2022, a heartbreaking video spread rapidly on Iran’s social media. A middle-aged mother stood in front of the white and green Guidance Patrol van, desperately trying to stop it from driving away. At the same time, she screamed “don’t take my daughter; she is sick.” Her efforts failed. The patrol van driver, who was taking orders from his superior through CB Radio, continued to drive until she was forced away from the car, ignoring her request, and taking her sick daughter away:

This painful and hateful scene met with a lot of reactions on Iranian social media. Somebody wrote, “Make no mistake this is not in Afghanistan; the Taliban have been in our country for years.” Another user wrote, “ISIS is new to many, but it has attacked our country for more than forty years.”

The “guidance,” patrol, and suppression of women in Iran are often initiated under the claim that a woman’s hijab is bad. This is a misogynistic technique that is as old as the Iranian Revolution itself.

In February 1979, while speaking to a gathering of seminary students in Qom, Khomeini said, “Women must go out with Islamic hijab.” This was a message to motivate some vigilantes with clubs to attack women under the color of the slogan “either a scarf or a smack on the head.”

On March 7, 1979, on Khomeini’s order, women who were not wearing the hijab were prohibited from entering government offices. Following this order, Jundullah’s patrols started suppressing women under the pretext of “bad hijab.”

In November 1983, parliament officially passed a law punishing women for appearing in public without a hijab. The new law held that any woman appearing in public without a hijab would be sentenced to up to seventy-four lashes.

Image: A frantic mother trying to stop Iran’s hijab police.

From 1985 to 1996, motorcyclists—the Hezbollahi—consistently assaulted women in the streets under the pretext of “bad hijab.”

On January 3, 2006, on Ayatollah Khamenei’s order, the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution announced that one of the duties of police officers was to deal with women who refused to wear the hijab. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched this plan, which was carried out by ominous green patrol vans, in cooperation with the judiciary, the Revolutionary Guards, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the Basij.

In 2013, the Ministry of the Interior formed the Social Council for Chastity, Hijab and Moral Security was formed in the Ministry of Interior. In this new plan, a significant part of the duties of the police force was transferred to the Council for Chastity and Hijab. In other words, the government continued to be focused on subduing women. By 2015, though, the parliament Research Center announced that this project was unsuccessful and caused hypocrisy in society.

In 2016, the plan for invisible guidance patrol was approved. According to this plan, seven thousand invisible agents will report to the police problems of “moral insecurity,” including “bad hijab.”

In 2021, the government again went to war against “moral insecurity” and “bad hijab,” this time by patrolling cyberspace. According to this plan, the police force and FTA (Cyberspace) police have reviewed footage online to punish violators.

In March 2022, Ebrahim Raisi’s government strengthened the guidance patrol and added the Red Crescent Organization to the guidance patrol. This marks a change from what parallel organizations (e.g., the Red Cross, Magen David Adom) do, which is to provide relief and help evacuate the injured in times of crises such as floods and earthquakes!

On July 11, 2022, Raisi harked back to the 2005 resolution of the Supreme Cultural Council to justify focusing on “bad hijab.” Annisseh Khazali, Raisi’s deputy of women’s affairs, also described the hijab as the first bastion of the regime and said: “If we lose it, we must expect to lose the other bastions.”

Following Raisi’s appeal, the guidance patrols, equipped with security devices and big vans, and repressive teams, poured into the streets. The agents of these patrols insult, harass and beat and detain women on the pretext of not wearing hijab, which is how we ended up with the video you saw at the top of this post.

Therefore, the Irshad patrol that attacks women in public is the result of Iran’s patriarchal and misogynist regime of Velayat-e-Faqih (religious fascism), which has been in control since the 1979 Revolution. The policy creates an atmosphere of terror and oppression, psychological pressure, suicide, and a lack of security for Iranian women.

But in the face of this flagrant oppression, as that mother showed, Iranian women have not been silent and have not given in to these pressures. They have resisted as well as they can the “bad hijab” regime and stood up against the repressive Irshad patrols with unity and integrity.

Hassan.Mahmoudi is an Iran & Middle East Political and Economic researcher.

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