Iran’s supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamen has hinted that the government may loosen the strict dress codes that were blamed for a young woman’s death and triggered nationwide demonstrations that have shaken the country’s clerical establishment.
He said Women who do not have full hijab should not be considered as people outside of religion or against the Islamic Revolution.
The speech to a group of what is described as mothers and exemplary women comes four months into the protests that were set off by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who died in a hospital days after being arrested by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating the strict dress codes. Police have denied mistreating her.
While his comments were vague and did not promise to change the existing laws, they were a recognition of how potent the issue of the hijab remains, according to Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University.
Since September, women across Iran have been defying strict hijab rules amid the demonstrations — the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic since its establishment in 1979. While the movement has morphed into a broad-based demand for change, the hijab, or head covering that women are required by law to wear remains a potent symbol and rallying cry. NBC NEWS