The head of Friday Prayers in Isfahan, central Iran, incited attacks against Iranian women the regime deems “improperly dressed” in controversial remarks yesterday. “The environment of the community must be made unsafe for these people and they should not be allowed to easily break the norms on the streets and in parks,” Yousef Tabatabai Nejad said in a meeting with the province’s General Staff of the Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Intelligence and Security and Isfahan’s Chief of Police.
According to state-run news agencies, the cleric who represents the “Supreme Leader” in Isfahan said that “Western governments” must not interfere with the implementation of the regime’s misogynist laws.
“Just as they have their own laws, we have our own laws and we must not be afraid that if we deal with norm breakers, they might carry out a hostile measure against us.”
He also asked that special branches be set up in courts in the regime’s judicial system to deal with what he called cases of “moral anomalies”. Tabatabai Nejad said that the police should have “more authority” in dealing with women “who take off their veil”.
Another senior cleric in Bojnourd, northeastern Iran echoed his threats. Speaking at a Friday Prayer sermon, Abolqassem Yaghoubi, the city’s head of Friday Prayers said that “improper veiling was a dangerous virus” and that the “police should make the lives of those who are improperly veiled unsafe”.
Social media reaction
Following these remarks, Iranians took to social media to condemn the threats against women. They said the clerics’ remarks encouraged violence against Iranian women such as were seen in 2014 in Isfahan when “Islamic vigilantes” reportedly affiliated with the regime, attacked women they deemed improperly veiled with acid.
The Deputy Minister of Communications and the head of Iran’s Information Technology Organization tweeted that, “In order to prevent previous tragedies like acid attacks, the Friday Prayer Leader should specify what he means by ‘unsafe’ and that he does not mean physical attacks and acid attacks.”
“The Isfahan Friday Prayer leader is a small replica of the Islamic Republic in general; People who are above the law and think they own human lives and property and try to impose their ideas and decisions on us in any way possible. In any other place in the world, such threats would have led to prosecution,” another Iranian tweeted.
Another angry Iranian said in a tweet, “This is a command to acid attackers to ‘fire at will”. People who are on the payroll of the Basij and IRGC!”
Tabatabai Nejad’s history of controversial remarks against Iranian women
Yousef Tabatabai Nejad has been the Isfahan Head of Friday Prayers since September 2002. In 2016, he claimed women taking pictures of themselves contributed to the drought in Zayandeh Rud river. He said, “Iranian women who wear immodest clothing have caused the nation’s rivers to run dry and damage the environment”. He also said that that a strict Islamic dress code must be enforced to ward off drought.
2014 Isfahan acid attacks
Isfahan has a history of acid attacks against women who do not conform to the regime’s dress code. Six years ago, in October 2014, there was a chain of acid attacks in Isfahan which targeted eight women. One woman died, while others suffered severe burns on their face and hand. Some of the women lost their eyesight in one or both eyes. The suspects have yet to be identified and detained. Iranians believe the attackers were affiliated with the regime’s hardliners.
The case was closed on July 19, 2018, according to state-run news agency.
Head of Friday Prayers handpicked by the “Supreme Leader”
The Head of Friday Prayers in Iran are the representatives of the regime’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in each city and are directly appointed by him. The clerics have to pass a political exam to prove their loyalty to the regime. Each Friday prayer has two sermons, one religious, the other political. A council specifies the outlines of the contents in the weekly sermons, dictating the influence of Khamenei in their cities.