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Friday, September 24, 2004

Iran Moves to Roll Back Rights Won by Women

Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, women have been forced to cover their heads and wear long, loose coats in public. But many had defied the restrictions since Mr. Khatami's election in 1997 and started wearing tighter and more colorful coats and showing more hair.


In recent months, though, newspapers have reported that scores of women have been arrested in Tehran, the capital, and around the country because they were wearing what the authorities considered to be un-Islamic dress.


Members of Parliament have called for segregating men and women at universities and for other limits on women's activities. Hard-liners have held protests to call for a crackdown on freedoms for women and have contended that women ridicule religious sanctities by violating the dress code.

The previous Parliament, dominated by reformists, embraced more legal rights for women and - despite opposition by hard-liners - expanded women's right to divorce and child custody.

Eshrat Shaegh, a conservative woman who has a seminary education and who is one of the women elected to Parliament in the sweep by hard-liners, wrote a letter to Mr. Khatami in July that called for an end to the mixing of unmarried young men and women in public places.

'How do you intend to resolve problems by allowing half-nude women to mingle and party with men who dress like women?' she asked in her letter, referring to women who in the hard-liners' view show too much hair and men who wear colorful clothes."