- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 31, 2006

LONDON — Police in Iran’s capital, Tehran, have stopped almost 64,000 women and warned them against breaching strict Muslim dress codes in the last month alone.

The authorities have chosen the height of summer for a new crackdown to ensure that women cover their heads with veils and their bodies with long, heavy overcoats whenever they are in public.

For years, Iran’s police turned a blind eye when young women pushed the boundaries of the rules by wearing the flimsiest of veils or displaying painted toenails in open sandals.

But President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s deeply conservative regime is steadily reversing this trend.

Police in Tehran have been given orders to caution any woman they deem to be “badly veiled.” Thousands are being stopped every day.

Mohammad Reza Alipour, from the capital’s police force, said that 63,963 women had been given a warning in the past month, with some making a “written pledge to dress properly.”

Observers say Mr. Ahmadinejad has ordered the new, hard-line approach.

“We are certainly seeing a return to behavior we haven’t seen for 10 years,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Iran researcher for Human Rights Watch. “Generally, the imposition of strict Islamic codes has been increasing under Ahmadinejad.”

The fate of women who police decide are “badly veiled” depends on the whims of the officers concerned. They may be released with a caution, or taken to a police station and bailed out. Those with political connections are usually treated leniently. Others may be detained.

“The person could end up in jail depending on their relationship with the authorities,” Mr. Ghaemi said.