Tehran police shut down Turkish Airlines office after staff defy hijab law

Tehran police shut down Turkish Airlines office after staff defy hijab law

Police in Iran have shut down the Turkish Airlines office in Tehran after female employees reportedly refused to wear the mandatory headscarf, or hijab, in defiance of the country’s laws. The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Tuesday that police officers visited the Turkish Airlines office on Monday to issue a first warning over the “non-observance of hijab” by the company’s employees. However, the employees, who are Iranian nationals, allegedly “made trouble for the police officers,” leading to the office’s closure. The Tasnim report stated that police subsequently sealed the office due to the employees’ behavior.

According to Tasnim, the Turkish Airlines office is expected to reopen on Wednesday and resume business as usual, although this has not been confirmed by the police. The report also mentioned that police would not seal any business solely due to the non-observance of hijab but would issue first warnings instead. There was no immediate comment from Turkish Airlines regarding the incident in Tehran.

The defiance of the headscarf law has been a contentious issue in Iran, especially following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September 2022 after her arrest by the country’s morality police. Amini’s death sparked mass protests across Iran, with many women choosing to remain uncovered in public as a form of resistance. Although these demonstrations have largely subsided, the choice by some Iranian women to forgo the hijab continues to challenge the country’s theocratic regime.

In recent years, Iranian authorities have closed hundreds of businesses, including shops, restaurants, pharmacies, and offices, for allowing female employees to forgo wearing the hijab. This enforcement intensified in the months leading up to Iran’s presidential election in June, following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash a month earlier.

The incident at the Turkish Airlines office in Tehran coincided with a phone call between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iran’s President-elect Masoud Pezeshkian. Erdogan congratulated Pezeshkian on his victory in Iran’s presidential runoff last week. Pezeshkian defeated hard-liner Saeed Jalili by promising to reach out to the West and ease the enforcement of the country’s mandatory headscarf law after years of sanctions and protests have put pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Tehran Prosecutor Ali Salehi was quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency as saying that no legal proceedings or rulings had been issued regarding the sealing of the Turkish Airlines office in Tehran. Iran and Turkey have maintained good relations, with bilateral trade between the two countries amounting to $5.4 billion in 2023. Turkey is also a popular tourist destination for Iranians, with approximately 2.5 million Iranians visiting last year. Turkish Airlines is favored by many Iranians due to the shorter travel time to the United States and Canada compared to other long-haul flights from Arab countries in the Persian Gulf.

The closure of the Turkish Airlines office in Tehran highlights the ongoing tension between Iran’s strict dress code laws and the growing defiance among some segments of the population. The incident also underscores the broader struggle for women’s rights and personal freedoms in Iran, a country where the enforcement of the hijab law remains a deeply polarizing issue.

The defiance of the hijab law by the Turkish Airlines employees is part of a larger movement within Iran, where many women are pushing back against the mandatory dress code. This movement gained significant momentum following the death of Mahsa Amini, which served as a catalyst for widespread protests and calls for greater personal freedoms. While the protests have largely cooled, the issue of the hijab continues to be a flashpoint in Iranian society.

The Iranian government’s response to the defiance of the hijab law has been to crack down on businesses and individuals who do not comply. This approach has led to the closure of numerous establishments and has created an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty for those who choose to challenge the law. However, the continued defiance by some women suggests that the government’s efforts to enforce the hijab law may not be entirely effective.

The incident at the Turkish Airlines office also comes at a time of political transition in Iran, with President-elect Masoud Pezeshkian set to take office. Pezeshkian’s promise to ease the enforcement of the hijab law and reach out to the West represents a potential shift in Iran’s approach to this contentious issue. However, it remains to be seen how these promises will be implemented and whether they will lead to meaningful change for Iranian women.

In the meantime, the closure of the Turkish Airlines office serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for women’s rights in Iran. The defiance of the hijab law by the Turkish Airlines employees is a bold statement against a system that seeks to control women’s bodies and choices. It is a testament to the resilience and courage of those who continue to fight for their rights in the face of significant challenges.

As Iran navigates this period of political and social change, the issue of the hijab will likely remain a central point of contention. The actions of the Turkish Airlines employees and the subsequent closure of the office highlight the complexities and challenges of enforcing such a law in a society where many are increasingly unwilling to comply. The future of the hijab law in Iran remains uncertain, but the continued defiance by some women suggests that the fight for personal freedoms and women’s rights is far from over.

Source: Associated Press, Tasnim News Agency, IRNA

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