How Iran’s feminist genie escaped -BBC

Ok, there should be a law against using “genie” analogies in articles about the Middle East. Having said that, this is an interesting look at gender issues in Iran, particularly dress codes. The situation in Iran is nothing if not complex. There continues to be religious police who harass, fine and even detain women for violating dress codes. However, the codes are always changing. What is allowed one day is not allowed the next, and vice versa. Many Iranian women returning to Iran after long periods of absence contact friends and family members to see what the rules are before they come back. The long term trend however, has been toward increased liberalization. Ironically, the rules under Ahmadinejad were less strict than they were under Khatami, at least when I was there. The fashion show going on in the malls in northern Tehran was truly incredible. And it was not just the women. Men too were pushing the boundaries of appropriate dress and hair style and plastic surgery (there were almost as many men as women with “nose-job” bandages). Interestingly, sometimes the police are around, and sometimes they are not. Much of it depends on the political mood of the day. There have been periods when they seem to be withdrawn for fear of provoking a backlash. Indeed, a great deal of the policing is based on intimidation. Women who are detained are often yelled at and/or shamed until they agree to dress by the rules, at which point they are released into the care of a family member (usually male). If people turned on the religious police on the street, which has happened on occasion in Tehran’s northern wealthy, more western, district, Iran’s conservatives would have a serious problem.