/ 3 September 2007

Iran gives barbers the chop

Police in Tehran have closed two dozen barbers and hairdressers in a fortnight in the latest phase of a ”morals” crackdown aimed at enforcing Islamic dress codes among young Iranians.

The businesses were shut after being identified as purveyors of decadent ”Western” culture.

Eleven women’s hairstylists were told to stop trading for offering tattoos. Tattooed eyebrows — in which the hair is shaved and replaced with elaborate patterns — are popular with many young Iranian women. One women’s salon was shut when authorities discovered one of its employees was a man. It is against Iran’s Islamic law for men to work in women’s salons.

A further 13 barbers were closed for giving customers excessively eye-catching haircuts and plucking men’s eyebrows. Many young Iranian men wear their hair in a gelled-up bouffant that would look outlandish even in some Western countries.

The closures were imposed by Amaken-e Omoomi, a police body for regulating businesses such as shops, restaurants and hotels, after it inspected more than 730 hairdressers in Tehran. They follow a concerted campaign to stamp out widespread flouting of Iran’s Islamic dress code by younger people.

Since last May, thousands of women have been arrested or warned for wearing hijab — or headscarves — that reveal too much hair. Women have also been detained for wearing overcoats deemed too figure-hugging and for short trousers that reveal too much skin. Police officers have been deployed in Tehran and other cities to identify transgressors.

The arrested men have been forced to identify their barbers and get fresh haircuts. They have then had to return to police stations for officers to decide whether their hairstyles are acceptable.

The morals clampdown has come amid a broader law-and-order offensive, which the government says is aimed at increasing ”social security”. Large numbers of ”thugs” and ”hooligans” have been arrested in police raids. The campaign has coincided with a crackdown on political dissent that has seen the arrests of academics, students and women’s rights activists. Officials have accused those arrested of fomenting a ”soft revolution” against the Islamic regime. – Â