Iranian “Chastity Patrols” Crop Up To Keep Young, Fashionable Women In Line

Iranian woman

Definitely not chastity patrol approved

It seems that after a summer of fashion respite in Tehran when women started flaunting the rules of proper Muslim dress, “Chastity Patrols” have popped up to “control morality in young women” by doing good and combating evil.  So, are these well-meaning people hanging around and keeping an eye on the young, randy Muslim men who have a thing for virgins?  Well….

The group’s 3,000 women and 1,000 men patrol the streets in civilian clothes to warn and intimidate those women who, in their view, violate the rules of decency required by the Islamic Republic.

The secretary general of Ansar-e Hezbollah, Abdul Hamid Mohtasham says it is necessary “to crush those who spread corruption”.

And what comprises “spreading corruption” in Iran that inspired a Ansar-e-Hezbollah group to become the fashion police of a world capitol?

  • Nail polish
  • Make-up
  • Leggings/skinny jeans
  • Transparent veils or headscarves
  • Sleeves not reaching wrists
  • Skirts and pants not reaching ankles
  • Dyed hair
  • Hair showing under a headscarf
  • Shorter hair
  • Styling the hair in such a way as to hang a headscarf and still show one’s features

It’s enough to make a girly-girl weep.  Seriously, these people are taking all the fun out of exploring femininity.  In Islam, that may be the point.

“This is a religious dictatorship,” Saide, a 29-year-old resident of Tehran said.


She wears an ordinary veil similar to many young women, exposing much of her hair.


Her classmate Sharshani, 26, believes that “this act shows no respect for people”.


“Each person should be able to dress as he or she wants” is an idea that has been taking hold in a country with a predominantly young population.


Fatima, who works for a tourism company, points out that “in other [Muslim] countries, such as Turkey, there are women who are veiled and some who are not”.


“But those who are veiled do not look down at those who are not, they respect them, but here, they look at us with hatred, just because we wear makeup or nail polish,” she said.


“In theory, we cannot expose our hair in the street. But we all show it, but that means we could be stopped at any time. Always walking in fear.”

Fear used to control young women so that the hardliners and the people who believe that any individual exploration of what it means to be a human female leads automatically to immorality, corruption, unchaste living, etc., can control these young ladies.

To be fair, in the west and among Christians, similar standards have been known to surface.  In my brand of Christianity, when it comes down to it, we are really supposed to dress and present ourselves pretty much the same way in church, at least.  But, no one is jailed for not following the guidelines.  (Although, in Europe, the dress code ladies will insist on draping a paper cover up over exposed shoulders and knees.)

In Iran, women go to jail for not dressing the right way.

“We’ve learned where they are” and how to avoid them, Maryam says – her getup today seems a bit risky, but she assures me she’s only dressed this way because they don’t patrol this area “unless they’re driving back to the station” with their daily catch. Still, she frequently looks over her shoulder when roaming the streets.


For her younger dorm-mate Zahra, who’s taken up work at a bank, it’s no big deal. “Before we used to get scared, but now it’s a routine affair for us,” she says of being arrested. It’s nothing like the early days of the revolution when neighborhood vigilantes would torment those they deemed immodest under a selective interpretation of the Islamic principle of “commanding the good and forbidding the evil.” Today, Zahra says, “they just snap a few pictures [of the arrestees] and let them go” after calling in a relative to bring a change of [more “modest”] clothes.

Even if, as the author of The Guardian piece quoted here insists, that it is really social forces that control how a woman dresses in public, the fear of going to jail causes these young ladies to be constantly on guard and needing a support group to help bail them out.  Why?  Because any exploration of what it means to be an individual is to be stamped out all in the name of pious Islam.  Is it the young men of Iran who insist on this, or even these girls’ fathers?  No.  It’s the Chastity Patrols with the complicit cooperation of the government even though Iranian President Rouhani is pushing for greater freedoms despite parliament impeaching him for reforms.

Rouhani is correct in one way: behavior cannot be imposed on the people.  They always will find a way around the dictates.  In Iran, it certainly seems that many women, at least, do not want to live with an oppressive dress code.  This pushing the envelope of acceptability is what is driving vigilantes to be a part of ensuring young ladies’ chastity whether they want the help or not.  And it is very clear that they do not.  My Stealthy Freedom, a Facebook page with over 600,000 likes, celebrates Iranian women who disdain the compulsory hijab, most often with the support of their husbands and other male family members.  None of these incidents are isolated.  There is a movement afoot.

Therefore, the “immoral” dress must be stamped out.  Hardline governments and regimes in Islam are no different than hardline communists in that way: keep the people afraid and they will comply.  Don’t give them a choice.  That is what the chastity patrols are all about.  Making the people afraid.


About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.