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Iran-DressCrackdown 06-16

Iranian police crack down on dress code violations

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Police closed dozens of clothing stores and hairdressers and stopped cars and pedestrians in a crackdown on women who do not abide by Iran’s strict Islamic dress code and men wearing fashions seen as too Western, Iranian media reported Monday.

The sweep, launched Saturday in some neighborhoods of Tehran, is part of an annual campaign aimed at enforcing dress codes that require women to wear long loose robes or coats and cover their hair in public. Many women — particularly in Tehran — push the boundaries of the code, wearing short, colorful coats that reveal the shape of the body and letting their headscarves slip to show much of their hair.

In past years, the government of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has launched the sweeps at the start of summer, when warmer temperatures bring more people into the streets of the capital and women dress lighter. During the crackdown, police stop women in the streets, issuing them warnings or even arresting them if their garb is deemed unsuitable. Men are also targeted for having long hair and other styles deemed too Western.

But the closure of shops appeared to be a new step, aimed at stopping the sale of shorter coats and lighter headscarves. The pro-reform daily Kargozaran reported Monday that police were questioning women and men where they bought their clothes or had their hair done, then targeting the shops.

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Police spokesman Mehdi Ahmadi said 32 clothing shops and hairdressers in Tehran were shut down so far, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. He also said 21 vehicles had been stopped because passengers were breaking dress rules. There was no word on whether anyone had been arrested.

Police official Nader Sarkari defended the actions, saying "people in inappropriate clothes and those who sell these clothes are aware of their violations since they have often been given warning."

"Why should some individuals take it upon themselves to commit an act society has deemed a violation?" he told the official news agency IRNA.

It was not clear how long the shops were ordered closed.

Iran imposed its dress codes in the wake of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. But enforcement eased in the late 1990s under the pro-reform government of then-President Mohammad Khatami, when many women began wearing brighter colors, makeup and headscarves revealing more of their hair.

Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005 backed by hard-liners and vowing a return to the revolution’s strict Islamic values. His government, which has grown unpopular over the country’s economic woes and tensions with the West, has not attempted an all-out campaign to enforce the strict dress rules, instead relying on periodic sweeps.

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