Although some view veiling as an oppressive arm of patriarchy, many young women in Iran do not let their hijabs interfere with their fashion sense. Although legally required, young women are practicing what has been termed, “bad hijab,” by wearing their scarves far back on their heads and having locks of hair flowing out underneath. Iranian artist, Saghar Daeeri, has created a series of caricature-like images documenting this sweep of modernity. Scenes feature young women in a shopping mall sporting barely-there veils, form fitting clothing, and faces full of makeup.
Despite efforts to be fashion forward, this behavior is generally frowned upon by the Iranian government. Valuable government resources are allocated to fund a morality police, responsible for identifying and documenting these inappropriately dressed individuals. University students have proven to be a particularly difficult case, and it has been proposed to force students to change into acceptable wear before being allowed on campus.
Businesses are also unsafe from the watchful eye of the morality police. Shops selling clothing that is too short or form fitting can be brought to court and fined. Owners have even been urged to keep the fashion forward out of their buildings. A storeowner in Tehran reports,
“We were told by the moral security police to go to court and the judge will decide how much of a fine we will have to pay to reopen,” he said. “From now on we can only sell [coats] with a minimum length of 110 centimeters [about 43 inches] and we must not display them in a provocative way. Boys with spiky and fashionable hair and very short sleeves … are not allowed in our shops.”
The use of cosmetics was once a topic also falling under the morality police’s jurisdiction. After the 1979 revolution, makeup was banned from the country, and those see wearing lipstick could be arrested. The importation of cosmetic products was allowed in the 1990s, however items are sold with a hefty 50 percent tax. Even still, Iranian women have become the second-largest makeup consumers in the Middle East, spending over $2 billion on products annually Daeeri’s women, wearing dark red lipstick, painted nails, highlighted hair, and smoky eye makeup, are surely part of that consumer base.
CBS News has reported Iran as being the nose job capital of the world, and a shopper is seen wearing a bandage indicating a recent nip. Arguments on whether plastic surgery is allowed Islamic often refer back to a Quranic passages 4:119-120, with Satan stating,
And I will mislead them, and I will arouse in them [sinful] desires, and I will command them so they will slit the ears of cattle, and I will command them so they will change the creation of Allah .” And whoever takes Satan as an ally instead of Allah has certainly sustained a clear loss.
Satan promises them and arouses desire in them. But Satan does not promise them except delusion.
Should the dress of the youth be of such high importance to the government? Does this choice of expression pose a threat to the wellbeing of the nation? According to one prayer leader, it does, making the claim that,
“Women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes,” he said. “What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam’s moral codes.”