Morality guards roam university campuses in Iran to enforce hijab

In an unprecedented move, morality guards have begun patrolling Iranian university campuses to force students to conform to the hijab and other Islamic regulations.

Ensaf News, a reformist website, reported on Friday that students at Amirkabir University in Tehran, one of the country’s largest and most prestigious universities, said patrols of morality guards had also launched warnings to students who spoke to each other and confiscated their student cards or noted down their contact details, presumably to keep track of their “infractions”.

Other guards posted at the gates of the university and its dormitories have also been of unprecedented rigor since the universities recently opened after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, students say, refusing the access to those whose appearance is not deemed “appropriate”.

“Everyone is afraid of getting in trouble when there is the sound of motorbikes,” one of the students from Amirkabir University told Ensaf. She said she was reprimanded by one of the guards who took her student ID number for the record because the front of her short hair was sticking out from under her headscarf. “It was never like this at this university before the pandemic,” she said.

According to Ensaf News, students say that after higher education institutions reopened this year, the atmosphere has changed a lot. Authorities appointed after the election of hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, they say, apparently find it the right time to impose an aggressive approach to Islamic discipline on students.

According to Ensaf News, morality guards have in some cases forced girls to return to their dormitories and change into more “modest” coats. The strict new measures they are not used to, the students say, have affected their class attendance as even the color of their socks can get them in trouble.

Students use social media to share their experiences. They write that in some universities, including the University of Tehran, they are now required to wear at least nun-like veils instead of the ordinary headscarf to cover their shoulders and that they cannot enter unless they do so. do not.

Since the hijab became compulsory in Iran, a few years after the 1979 Islamic revolution, all government offices and universities have had special officers monitoring women’s compliance with the rules of compulsory hijab and preventing those who do not. their standards of modesty to enter the premises.

Men whose clothes appeared “too Western”, too tight or those who wore short-sleeved shirts would also be turned away.

In major cities, most universities over the past two decades only required women to wear regular headscarves and long coats in black or other modest colors such as brown, beige, or gray, and ankle-length trousers, but not the long black veil (tchador) that completely covers the body from head to toe.

However, universities in some smaller, more conservative cities have always required girls to wear headscarves. Many students, especially those from big cities studying in smaller towns, brought the veil with them to campus and only wore it when they were near the door.

Authorities have always promoted the long black veil as “the optimal (or best) type of hijab”, but only a fraction of Iranian women wear it regularly.

At some universities, even Islamic student unions have protested the tough new measures. “Universities are not military barracks and dormitories are not prisons,” the Islamic Union of Scientific and Technological Universities in Tehran said in a statement on Wednesday.

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