Un­veiled Iran driv­ers to have cars im­pounded

Tele­gram tar­geted

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

TEHRAN: Ira­nian women who fail to wear the veil when driv­ing will have their cars im­pounded for a week and are likely to be fined, po­lice warned yes­ter­day. In the past week, about 10,000 mo­torists have re­ceived warn­ings, with 2,000 fac­ing fur­ther ac­tion for break­ing “so­cial norms”, but the new mea­sure to con­fis­cate cars will come into force na­tion­wide. Deputy po­lice chief Said Montazer-ol-Me­hdi said of­fi­cers had been au­tho­rized by pros­e­cu­tors to take such steps.

If traf­fic po­lice spot an un­veiled woman driver or pas­sen­ger, “their car will be taken to a po­lice com­pound for a week”, he said, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial IRNA news agency. Some own­ers will be fined but other of­fend­ers will be re­ferred to ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he added. The steps are part of a wider traf­fic po­lice crack­down that could also see male driv­ers tar­geted for bad con­duct. Vi­o­la­tions could in­clude “re­moval of veil in­side the car, driv­ing reck­lessly, parad­ing in the streets and ha­rass­ing women,” IRNA said.

When in pub­lic, all women in the Is­lamic repub­lic, in­clud­ing for­eign­ers, are re­quired to wear at least a loose scarf, known as hi­jab, which cov­ers the hair and neck. Since the mid-1990s, how­ever, there has been a grad­ual change in the dress code. Many women wear stylish and color­ful coats and head­scarves and of­ten tight trousers in­stead of the tra­di­tional one-piece, head-to-toe black chador. Po­lice pa­trols have con­tin­ued cam­paigns to en­force the law and the au­thor­i­ties also use a net­work of “trus­tees” to iden­tify trans­gres­sors.

But in some up­mar­ket neigh­bor­hoods of north­ern Tehran, a city of 12 mil­lion, it is not un­com­mon to see women’s scarves wrapped around their shoul­ders. “A num­ber of of­fi­cials, army and gov­ern­ment chiefs and covert po­lice agents have been given ac­cess to a sys­tem set up to re­port the vi­o­la­tions,” Montazer-ol-Me­hdi said of the lat­est cam­paign. “Th­ese trus­tees will re­port the li­cense plate of vi­o­la­tors and the cars will be flagged for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion.”

Iran’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei ac­cused fast­driv­ing wealthy young­sters in April of cre­at­ing “psy­cho­log­i­cal in­se­cu­rity” on the streets af­ter two high-speed ac­ci­dents killed five peo­ple. “I hear that young peo­ple from the gen­er­a­tion of wealth, a gen­er­a­tion in­tox­i­cated by their money, are driv­ing lux­ury cars and parad­ing in the streets, making the streets in­se­cure,” he said, quoted by his web­site.

Mean­while, Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties have ar­rested ad­min­is­tra­tors of more than 20 groups on the mes­sag­ing app Tele­gram for spread­ing “im­moral con­tent”, semi-of­fi­cial Fars news agency re­ported yes­ter­day, the lat­est de­ten­tions in a clam­p­down on free­dom of ex­pres­sion. In re­cent weeks, Iran’s pow­er­ful hard­line Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards Corps (IRGC) has rounded up a num­ber of artists, jour­nal­ists and US cit­i­zens, cit­ing fears of Western “in­fil­tra­tion”.

Their cam­paign co­in­cides with Iran be­gin­ning the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a nu­clear deal signed with world pow­ers in July, which hard­lin­ers op­pose for fear it will open up Ira­nian so­ci­ety to what they see as cor­rupt­ing Western in­flu­ences. The Tele­gram groups were tar­geted for their “im­moral con­tent”, Montazer-ol-Me­hdi was quoted as say­ing by Fars. He also said more than 100 “hack­ers” had been ar­rested in the past month, with­out giv­ing more de­tails.

Tele­gram’s Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Pavel Durov said last month that Ira­nian au­thor­i­ties had de­manded he hand over “spy­ing and cen­sor­ship tools”, and tem­po­rar­ily blocked the app when he re­fused. He was later in­formed by Iran’s Min­istry of In­for­ma­tion that the re­quest was “not au­tho­rized by any higher au­thor­i­ties”. The IRGC an­nounced the Tele­gram users’ ar­rests last week, say­ing they had shared im­ages and text “in­sult­ing to Ira­nian of­fi­cials” as well as “satire and sex­ual ad­vice”. At the time, the ju­di­ciary de­nied any such ar­rests had occurred. It has not com­mented on Sun­day’s re­ports.

Last week, UN hu­man rights in­ves­ti­ga­tors called on the au­thor­i­ties to cease ar­rest­ing, ha­rass­ing and pros­e­cut­ing jour­nal­ists and other activists to pave the way for free de­bate ahead of par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary. Un­der the nu­clear deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nu­clear pro­gram in ex­change for an eas­ing of sanc­tions on its econ­omy. Iran al­ways de­nied Western sus­pi­cions it wanted to de­velop a nu­clear weapon.

Smart­phone mes­sag­ing ap­pli­ca­tions are highly pop­u­lar in Iran, where half of the pop­u­la­tion is aged 24 or younger. The Is­lamic Repub­lic has some of the strictest con­trols on In­ter­net ac­cess in the world, but its blocks on so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as Face­book, Twit­ter and YouTube are rou­tinely by­passed by the tech-savvy. Sev­eral branches of the se­cu­rity es­tab­lish­ment mon­i­tor con­tent, in­clud­ing the IRGC. In­frac­tions on so­cial me­dia can re­sult in harsh sen­tences from the hard­line ju­di­ciary. Last year, 11 peo­ple were ar­rested by the IRGC for in­sult­ing Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini, the Is­lamic Repub­lic’s founder, on mes­sag­ing ser­vices What­sApp, Tango, Viber and Tele­gram. Tele­gram, which was launched in 2013, has be­come pop­u­lar among activists and or­di­nary Ira­ni­ans be­cause it is seen as be­ing more se­cure than its ri­vals.— Agen­cies

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