Friday, April 21, 2006


I keep forgetting what century I am living in. Out here where I live the state Board of Education next door is mandating schools teach nine weeks of abstinance education and some intelligent design. The state legislature right here is debating whether to essentially declare that Christianity is the state religion. Our President, of course, is in constant communication with God Almighty and declares himself to be the "Decider."

Meanwhile, Iran's police force outlined plans on Tuesday for a renewed crackdown against women who they say show off too much of their bodies in the streets of Tehran (who knew?).

Morteza Talai, Tehran's police chief, told the semi-official Fars agency: "In our campaign, we will confront women showing their bare legs in short pants."

"We are also going to combat women wearing skimpy headscarves, short and form-fitting coats, and the ones walking pets in parks and streets," he said.

I should hope so. Bare legged women with skimpy headscarves walking dogs in the park. Good lord, somebody stop this outrage.

When I was 20 I absolutely would not believe that it would come to this.

The following is from AKI (Italy).


Tehran, 21 April (AKI) - A crusade for the moralisation of Iran's society kicked off on Friday in the capital Tehran. Women failing to abide by the regime's definition of good Islamic dress will be fined. Young men with long hair or wearing Western-style T-shirts will also face fines, along with anyone walking around with a dog - an animal considered impure by the Muslim religion. The law approved by the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seeks to defend Islamic values and crack down on Western culture - a move Iranian women interviewed by Adnkronos International (AKI) fear will have a major impact on society.
Some 200 extra police officers - half of them women - are to patrol the streets of Tehran to ensure the new norms are obeyed, said the capital's police chief Morteza Talaii.

From the capital, the Islamisation campaign will be rolled out to other Iranian cities in the coming weeks and many in Tehran fear it will eventually lead to a war against satellite television, private parties and non classical music, be it Iranian or foreign.

"Anyone not wishing to abide by Islamic laws and the government's new measures can start queuing to get a visa and leave the country as soon as possible," suggested Seyyed Mehdi Tabatabaii, a member of parliament with the Abadgaran faction supporting the government.

"We don't intend to use force to impose Islamic rules but expect all citizens to respect our traditions," said Morteza Talaii, Tehran's police chief. There will be no public flogging nor imprisonment for women whose hair might show beneath their headscarves or wearing tight short or tight jackets but there will be very heavy fines.

"The government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad cannot punish those failing to respect Islamic rules with flaggings or arrests, also because of international pressure over the issue of human rights," said Azadeh Akbari, a young journalist in the capital. "On the other hand, replacing floggings with fines when the middle classes are in dire financial straits is a very efficient deterrent."

Azadeh said that already very early on Friday morning the new police officers were patrolling the streets of Tehran "armed with electric truncheons and hot pepper gas, stopping for the moment only young men with long hair and sparing women, at least for the moment."

"This fight for moralisation starts at the beginning of every summer, though I fear that this time the change will be much more serious and worrying that in the past years," said Somayyeh Nasiriah, a 25-year-old woman working in the film industry. "The campaign announced by the government mainly concerns normal people and not the organised groups of youths openly defying the Islamic Republic," she said. "They don't fear public flogging, let alone fines."

Somayyeh said that for the past few weeks police officers have started stopping cars to question passengers. Young people who are not related get arrested on "illegal relations" charges if caught in a car together.

"Life in Iran is increasingly difficult and these new measures make it unbearable," said Yalda Moayeri, a photographer. "I'm afraid that the cabinet means to make life hard for those failing to adapt to religious impositions," noted Yalda.

"Youths as well as those who are not young anymore don't have the energy anymore to fight such impositions nor to endure the permanent pressure," she said. "We all at risk of falling into a collective depression."

Sociologist Shiva Zarabadi however doesn't think that "the presence of 200 officers in a city of 15 million inhabitants can change things."

"During the campaign leading to his election, the president promised the return of a very religious society to a part of his electorate, while he vowed to others that he would not use repression to impose social and cultural choices," Zarabadi said. "Today, the government is facing the pressure of the religious electorate demanding a moral clean-up of society which doesn't however provide for offenders to be publicly flogged or arrested but to be fined."

"After all, the international situation has changed and the Islamic Republic cannot ignore criticism over its violation of human rights while it is under international scrutiny for its nuclear programme," noted the sociologist.

Nevertheless, Zarabadi is convinced that the government will not succeed in imposing a dress code in a society "where youths who cannot amuse themselves in any way and have few opportunities to socialise let their creativity out with what they wear."

"If they also close this safety valve for young people, they could loose control of the situation," concluded the sociologist.

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