Iran’s new hijab surveillance system met with internal defiance, derision « Khabarhub
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Iran’s new hijab surveillance system met with internal defiance, derision

23 April 2023  

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WASHINGTON: Iran’s new domestic surveillance program for enforcing its mandatory hijab law is having a shaky start, with many women appearing to ignore it, lawyers sharply criticizing it and activists observed to be plotting to subvert it.

Iranian state media said the program went into effect on April 15. A week earlier, Iran’s national police chief, Ahmad Reza Radan, said it would employ advanced surveillance capabilities, including street cameras, to identify women violating the law requiring them to wear a hijab to cover their hair in public in accordance with an Islamist dress code reviled by secular Iranians.

A video posted Monday on the state-run Tasnim news site used animation to show how part of the program works. It said women caught on camera not wearing a hijab inside vehicles would receive text message warnings from police and could see their vehicles impounded if they ignore those warnings.

It was not immediately clear how many new cameras were installed for the surveillance program and where. Iran had been using street cameras to record traffic violations.

Many women in Iran appear undaunted by the increased surveillance. Over the past week, VOA Persian has observed a series of what it deems to be credible social media videos showing women in different parts of the country walking unveiled in public in defiance of the hijab law.

In one video received by VOA Persian TV host Masih Alinejad and posted to her Telegram channel on Friday, an unveiled woman can be seen walking along a street at night and raising her arms in defiant gestures as she and other women around her chant “Radan, get lost,” a reference to the Iranian police chief, and “death to the dictator,” a reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Alinejad said the sender of the video told her it was filmed in the Jolfa neighborhood of the central city of Isfahan. VOA cannot independently verify the locations and dates of the observed social media videos because it is barred from reporting inside Iran.

Iran’s Kayhan newspaper, which is run by a Khamenei aide, dismissed the videos of unveiled women broadcast by Western-based Persian news channels. In an April 16 commentary, it called those videos fake without citing evidence.

Several prominent lawyers in Iran criticized the new hijab surveillance program as ill-advised and illegitimate in comments to state-approved news sites.

Tehran-based lawyer Ali Mojtahedzadeh told the Didban Iran (Iran Watch) site in an April 15 article that he believes the program will violate people’s privacy.

“Photography is [acceptable] for traffic violations, but it is a strange and expensive technique for identifying people without a veil. I consider this to be against the law and against reason and logic,” Mojtahedzadeh said.

In a commentary published April 17 by the Khabar Online site, Iranian law professor Nemat Ahmadi expressed doubt that the surveillance cameras will produce the desired result.

Ahmadi said Iran should learn from nationwide antigovernment protests that erupted in September and not lay the groundwork for more actions that would inflame the public and try to distract people’s attention from economic problems.

This week’s VOA Flashpoint Iran podcast examined the technology behind Iran’s surveillance program in an interview with Yasmin Green, CEO of Google subsidiary Jigsaw, which develops technology to address threats to open societies.


Publish Date : 23 April 2023 15:53 PM

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