27 September 2012

Woman 1 Cleric 0

Old news I know but still worth a belated post. RFE/RL reported on this incident last week.

An Iranian cleric claimed that he was beaten up by a woman when he accosted her for being improperly dressed:

I politely told her to cover herself up," said Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti, an Iranian cleric in the city of Shamirzad in Semnan Province, describing a recent encounter with a woman he believed was improperly veiled.

"She responded to me by saying: 'You [should] close your eyes.'"

The cleric said he repeated his warning to the “bad hijab” woman, which is a way of describing women who do not fully observe the Islamic dress code that became compulsory following the 1979 revolution.

"Not only didn’t she cover herself up, but she also insulted me. I asked her not to insult me anymore, but she started shouting and threatening me," Beheshti said. "She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back. From that point on, I don’t know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the woman who was beating me up and insulting me."

He said he was hospitalized for three days following the attack.

For the past 30 years, Iranian women have been harassed, detained, fined, and threatened by the morality police, security forces, and zealots over their appearance. Women have fought back in different ways, including by pushing the boundaries of acceptable dress and criticizing the rules, which apply only to women.

Officially, the hijab is promoted as “protection” for women against evil in society. For many women, however, the hijab feels like a burden, an insult, a limitation of their freedom and an attempt to keep them under control.

Young girls often cite the mandatory hijab as one of the main reasons they want to leave Iran and move to another country. Women being mistreated by the police because of their hijabs have become a common scene on the streets of the Iranian capital and other cities, especially during the hot summer months when the hijab crackdown intensifies.

The situation has led to conflicts between women and religious zealots such as Beheshti, who believe that the Islamic principle of “commanding right and forbidding wrong” makes it their duty to lecture women about their appearance and choice of dress.

Mehr reports that attacks against clerics similar to the one involving Beheshti are not rare. The news agency issued the names of three other clerics, including a representative of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who have been attacked.

Beheshti says he didn’t file a complaint against the woman who attacked him, despite going through “the worst days of his life.”

According to Mehr, the case is being reviewed by the judiciary. The region’s prosecutor told the news agency that the case is being investigated but wouldn’t give any details. The prosecutor has referred to the case as an incident of a "public beating."

Of course, when the same type of incident is reversed -- a "badly veiled" women beaten in public by police -- it’s simply a necessary enforcement of the dress code.

I don't condone violence but I must admit that I can't feel anything but sympathy towards the woman in questoin. I'm glad that she isn't receiving multiple beatings at the hands of the Iranian authorities


susan said...

What a can of worms, eh? On the one hand we feel bad for women in Iran who are forced to wear hijab and then feel equally bad for Muslim women in France who are forbidden by law to wear the headscarf.

jams o donnell said...

There is that Susan

Claude said...

The can of worms is that it's always women who are under attacks and deprived of their freedom to do as they wish.

jams o donnell said...

Indeed Claude