A woman in the Iranian city of Shamirzad, angered earlier this month by a cleric who told her she was insufficiently covered, decided that enough was enough with such religious street harassment and took matters into her own hands. Or rather her fists and feet, to be more exact.
Women in Iran are required to be covered up in public in accordance with a law introduced after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, causing most never to leave home without first wrapping themselves up in a body-encompassing black hijab. Women appearing in public deemed improperly covered are warned, and sometimes even beaten, by an assortment of morality guardians that include a morality police, regular police, busybody clerics or general, run-of-the mill religious fanatics.
But this apparently fed-up Iranian female was obviously not in the mood for any more religious street bullying, at least on this particular day. After the admonishment about the state of her dress, she abruptly told the intrusive cleric, Hojetoeslam Ali Beheshti: “You should close your eyes.”
“Not only didn’t she cover herself up, but she started shouting and threatening me,” said Beheshti after the brush off.
Beheshti should have taken the woman’s hard-line refusal and behavior as a warning sign. But his supposedly divinely-ordered duty to keep the streets of the mullah state safe for Iranian men who might lose all sexual self-control at the sight of a bare, well-turned ankle and other such horrendous, woman-derived, society-threatening evil appears to have overridden all common sense and he unwisely repeated his admonishment. Bad mistake.
“She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back,” Beheshti related. “From that point on, I don’t know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the woman who was beating me up and insulting me.”
The price of the poor cleric’s martyrdom for the cause of “commanding right and forbidding wrong,” as his moral guardian duties are officially called, was a three-day stay in the hospital.
Golnaz Esfandiari, a correspondent for Radio Free Europe, wrote about the incident on her blog, saying the story appeared in the semi-official Iranian news agency, Mehr. An Iranian woman herself, Esfandiari says she does not support violence but has an understanding of the cleric-beating woman’s actions.
“[A]s a woman who grew up in Iran and was harassed many times for appearing in public in a way that was deemed un-Islamic, I understand the frustration that that woman in Semnan (Province) must have felt and why she lashed out at the cleric,” Esfandiari wrote. “For the past 30 years, Iranian women have been harassed by the morality police, security forces, and zealots over their appearance[.]”
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