As summer approaches, police in Tehran have once again begun to crack down on Iranians who fail to comply with the country’s Islamic dress code. This year, besides the customary uniformed morality police, 7,000 undercover agents are reportedly also on the case. I was spared the early years of the Islamic Republic, but my mother recalls how diligent she had to be to avoid giving the morality police – or anyone else with the authority to judge appearances – any pretext to find fault with her, as jail sentences for “protesting” were all too common for dress-code transgressors.
It was a hot day in the early 1980s and my parents were going to an international exhibition in Tehran. As my older sister, then a baby, lay in her carriage, my mom wheeled her into the room filled with female agents who were in charge of checking the women’s compliance. They would ask some to fix their hijab, passing tissues to others to wipe off their makeup.
As one agent finished scrutinizing my mother, she looked at my sister in the carriage.
“Khanoum!” – “lady” – she exclaimed. “Why are your daughter’s bare legs showing?” she asked, in apparent shock.
“She’s just eight months old,” my mother, in even greater shock, replied.
“So what? She’s a girl, isn’t she?” Read more