October 5, 2020
The two Friday Prayer Imams’ calls to “make the surroundings unsafe” for women who do not observe the hijab have triggered adverse reactions on Iranian social media.
Isfahan’s Friday Prayer Imam, Yousef Tabatabei-Nejad, who has a long history of calling for a crackdown on women presumed to be “bad-hijab,” once again urged Iran’s security and intelligence agents to make the “surroundings unsafe” for citizens with “loose hijab.”
Tabatabaei-Nejad, a black-turbaned cleric officially recognized as Ayatollah, is the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s representative in Isfahan, central Iran. He is also a member of the influential Assembly of Experts.
At a meeting with the intelligence and military officials on Friday, October 2, the 76-year-old Ayatollah regretfully said that some women deliberately “remove their hijab,” and the law enforcement forces should have “more authority” to deal with them.
Tabatabai-Nejad also demanded the establishment of “special branches” in courts to exclusively investigate “moral abnormality cases.”
The elderly Ayatollah, who carries the title of Sayyid (claiming to be direct descendent of Prophet Mohammad), is notorious for his belief in restricting women’s rights.
In 2016, he insisted that women’s cycling is considered “villainy” and crime as grave as drug offenses.
Echoing his colleague in Isfahan, Abolqassem Yaqoubi (Abolghasem Yaghoubi), the representative of Khamenei in the city of Bojnourd, also said in his last Friday prayer sermons, “Bad hijab is a dangerous virus, and the NAJA (Persian acronym for the Police Force) should make the life of bad hijab unsafe.”
Also notorious for his extremist comments, the white-turbaned cleric argued in July, “Modern scientists have discovered that pork contains a vitamin – a kind of microbe – that weakens the zeal of people who overeat pork. Their zeal fades, like these Westerners who, as you can see— there is no difference between men and women among them. They do not adhere to what is divinely permitted and forbidden. They pursue alcohol, gambling, pork, and all other forbidden things.”
The statements of Khamenei’s representatives, especially from Tabatabaei-Nejad, about making the surrounding unsafe for women with “improper hijab,” have been reminiscent of a series of acid attacks in 2014, in Isfahan.
A series of acid attacks on women considered “bad-hijab” in Isfahan occurred sometime around October 2014. As of October 27, 2014, at least eight such attacks had occurred in Isfahan, claiming the life of one woman died with many more suffering severe burns to their faces and hands.
According to the local news outlets, two unidentified assailants riding together on the same motorbike carried out the attacks. “They wore helmets with visors down to hide their faces and flung acid into the faces of women who were walking or driving cars,” AFP reported on October 19, 2014. None of the perpetrators were ever found.
The acid attacks occurred immediately after some religious figures in Isfahan, including the city’s interim Friday Prayer leader, mid-ranking clergy, Mohammad Taqi (Taghi Rahbar), called for a crackdown on “unveiled people.”
The incident caused widespread panic and led to protest rallies in Isfahan.
However, Rahbar condemned the acid attack later, saying, “Such acts are neither allowed by law nor by sharia.”
Referring to Isfahan’s acid attacks, a prominent lawyer, Ali Mojtahedzadeh, wrote that “in case of any arbitrary action against women,” the Friday Prayer Imam of Isfahan must be held accountable.
Numerous social media users also strongly criticized Ayatollah Tabatabei-Nejad by publishing pictures of the acid attack victims in Isfahan and called for ending violence against women.