Iranian students protest mandatory headscarf rule

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TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — A group of Iranian university students held a campus protest Monday against authorities' increasing pressure on women to wear mandatory headscarves in public.

The semi-official ISNA news agency said the Tehran University students — both men and women — briefly scuffled with another group of students who support the country's conservative dress code. The rally ended after a few hours.

Deputy head of the university, Majid Sarsangi, told ISNA that there were no new measures in place regarding compulsory hijab at the university. However, he said students should have more respect for the rule during the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. He said the protesters did not receive any permission to hold the rally.

The headscarf, or hijab, is mandatory in public for all women in Iran. Those who violate the rule are usually sentenced to two months in prison or less and fined around $25.

A prominent human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was sentenced in May to seven years in prison after defending anti-hijab protesters.

Iranian authorities have adopted a tougher approach toward such protests since 2017, after dozens of women publicly took off their headscarves. Authorities blamed those protests on foreign-based opposition groups.

The hijab has been matter of dispute since the 1980s, when it became compulsory under the law, though Iranian women were still allowed to drive and hold public office.

In Tehran today, some fashionable young women wear tighter clothes with a scarf loosely covering their head, technically meeting the requirements of the law while drawing the ire of conservatives.

Both President Hassan Rouhani and Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, support a softer attitude toward women who don't properly follow the dress code, although hard-liners who are opposed to any such easing still dominate Iran's security forces and the judiciary.

In April, a woman who removed her hijab in a public protest, Vida Movahed, was sentenced to one year in prison but pardoned by Khamenei, her lawyer said.

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