It's an Iranian rite of summer: Islamic morality squads pressure women to keep their headscarves snug and coverings in place, and after a few extra tugs for modesty's sake the crackdown inevitably fades.
This year, however, Iran's summer fashion offensive appears bigger and more ominous, and has expanded the watch list to men's hairstyles and jewelry considered too Western.
No official explanation has appeared for the sterner approach this season. But it fits with the steady push by Iran's ruling theocracy to reel back the liberal fashion trends that began in the 1990s -- such as body-hugging coverings for women and earrings and tattoos for men -- and to sweep away non-Islamic influences in universities and cultural institutions.
The drive to turn back the clock -- part of what Iran calls a "moral security plan" -- also could reach deeper as the all-powerful clerics running Iran move to reinforce their authority.
The conservative forces around Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have already struck back hard at President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's attempts to expand his power base, and are expected to set a hard-line tone for parliamentary elections early next year.
Nearly two-thirds of Iran's Parliament have signed a statement supporting the latest fight against "Western cultural invasion". It's blamed for such challenges to Islamic dress codes as women's headscarves pushed back and pants cropped short to show as much leg as possible.
Some 70 000 police officers have been deployed in Tehran this month to enforce the dress codes, the state news agency IRNA said.
"Confronting those who are not sufficiently veiled is a legitimate demand of the people," said Iran's police chief, Gen. Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam, who was added to the United States sanctions list earlier this month for his alleged role in the political clampdowns after Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in 2009.
The fashion targets this year also include men's hairstyles and "un-Islamic" bling such as necklaces.
Source: Mail & Guardian Online