Iranian Minister Justifies Hijab Mandate  with Ancient Persepolis Carvings

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Iranian Minister Justifies Hijab Mandate with Ancient Persepolis Carvings

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As Iranian authorities intensify their crackdown on women refusing to wear the hijab, Minister of Culture Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili has cited ancient carvings from Persepolis to justify the mandate. Esmaili argued that “Iranian identity and the post-Islamic era do not conflict,” claiming that women depicted in the 2,500-year-old petroglyphs wore “appropriate clothing.”

Persepolis, founded by King Darius I, served as the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Esmaili’s comments suggest that traditional dress codes from this pre-Islamic period align with the current hijab laws imposed by the Islamic Republic. He emphasized that “the pre-Islamic era is not a threat to us but an opportunity,” and that the interpretation of historical practices should follow the teachings of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Khomeini made the hijab compulsory for women following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, positioning it as a core priority. Despite this, recent polls indicate a rapid secularization and liberalization among the Iranian populace, outpacing other societies in the Islamic world, even after decades of Islamist rule.

Esmaili’s statements come amid ongoing defiance by Iranian women against compulsory veiling laws. Amnesty International has condemned the laws as a war on Iranian women and girls. The crackdown, dubbed the “Noor Plan,” was re-intensified following a directive from Khamenei. This has led to widespread reports and videos of morality police using violence to detain unveiled women.

The enforcement of the hijab law has faced increasing resistance, particularly following the death of Mahsa Amini in September 2022, which sparked nationwide protests. Despite the regime’s efforts, many women in urban areas continue to flout the mandatory veiling regulations.

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