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Iranian press review: Video sparks renewed debate over hijab law

Meanwhile, talks continue to stall between Iran and Saudi Arabia and a gambling promoter is sentenced to death
Women wearing headscarves walk in the streets of Tehran near, Tajrish Square, on 12 July 2022 (AFP)

Imposing strict hijab rules backfires

Iranian society is becoming deeply fractured over the question of compulsory headscarves, with sociologists warning that aggressive action by the police to impose the hijab on women would lead to a major backlash.

The discussion over the hijab and women's outfits reignited again in Iran after a video went viral on social media, showing a quarrel between two women over the issue on a public bus.

'Many women who were born after the revolution do not believe in hijab... this means that harsh methods, orders and obligations have created resistance in society'

- Sedigheh Shakouri Rad, Iranian social researcher

In the video, one hijabi woman threatens to film another woman and send the video to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to arrest her for "inappropriate hijab".

The video shows the quarrel between the two women ending when the hijabi woman is shoved out of the bus by the other women.

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The images of this quarrel have caused a massive reaction in Iran, with many experts saying that new restrictive measures preventing women from showing hair in public would negatively affect support for the hijab in Iran.

Sedigheh Shakouri Rad, an Iranian social researcher, told the Etemad daily that the hijab would not be accepted in society through police enforcement.

"Many women who were born after the [Islamic] revolution do not believe in hijab... this means that harsh methods, orders and obligations have created resistance [against hijab] in society," Shakouri Rad was quoted as saying.

The Arman daily also criticised the activities of religious morality police, adding that the viral videos revealing the physical confrontations between the police and women negatively impacted people's perception of the Islamic headscarf.

"Instead of investing money to equip [religious morality] police, they would be more successful if they could cultivate [Islamic] culture," the daily concluded.

No diplomatic progress between Tehran and Riyadh

A high-ranking official in Iran's foreign ministry said that negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, aimed at restoring ties, have not yet entered the phase of political talks.

Alireza Enayati, head of the Persian Gulf Countries Office in Iran's foreign ministry, stressed that no progress had been made after the last round of talks between the two countries' security officials.

Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran in 2016 after the Saudi embassy was torched by protesters angered over the kingdom's execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr. However, since April 2021, five rounds of negotiations have been held between the two rivals in a bid to restore relations.

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Local media quoted Enayati as saying: "If Saudi Arabia was ready for the next round of talks, we welcome political negotiations."

However, he rejected the reports about a new round of talks with Saudi Arabia to solve diplomatic issues.

According to Enayati, no exact date has yet been set for a meeting between the two countries foreign ministers in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

Iraq hosted the previous five rounds of talks between Tehran and Riyadh.

Some Iranian analysts suggested that US President Joe Biden's visit to the kingdom and closer Saudi ties to Israel risked derailing talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

A number of lingering geopolitical issues have also been a wedge between the two countries, with each backing opposing sides in the Yemen war since 2015.

Iran loses electricity market in Iraq, say experts

Economists and market analysts say Iran has lost control of the electricity market in neighbouring Iraq, due to the US sanctions and its infrastructural setbacks in producing inexpensive electricity.

Before 2018, Iran was the leading electricity supplier to Iraq, selling about 80 percent of its electricity exports to Iraq.

The Shargh daily reported that companies from China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have replaced Iran in Iraq's electricity market by building solar power plants in the country.

Mehdi Karamipour Moghaddam, a former director of the Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce, told the daily that the price of electricity Saudi Arabia sells to Iraq from solar plants is four times cheaper than Iran's production.

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018.
Saudi solar energy is supplied to Iraq. A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh (AFP/file photo)

"It is too late to ask if Iran might lose the electricity market in Iraq because this has already happened, and we have lost that market," Shargh quoted him as saying.

"In recent years, we encountered electricity shortages and when a country has a limited production capacity it does not make sense to talk about exports."

Hamid Reza Salehi, a deputy director at Iran's chamber of commerce, warned that losing income from the electricity market in Iraq would cause further economic issues for Iran.

Following the 2018 US sanctions on Iran's economy, Tehran's foreign funds were frozen in several countries. As a result, it could not import food, medicines and other essential goods in return for exports to other countries.

These economists suggested that in the near future, Iran would also lose the gas market in Turkey.

Gambling advertiser sentenced to death

An Iranian court handed a preliminary death sentence to social media star and gambling site promoter Milad Hatami for "spreading corruption on" earth, ISNA news agency reported.

Before his arrest in March 2020, Hatami lived in Turkey and rose to fame on Persian social media, showing off his luxurious lifestyle and advertising for Persian gambling websites.

Following a nationwide crackdown on these websites, he was arrested by Interpol in Turkey and extradited to Iran.

Iran's judiciary accused Hatami of "interrupting Iran's monetary system" and money laundering. Although he lived outside Iran, a branch of Iran's revolutionary court also accused him of "founding a gambling centre and encouraging [others] to corruption".

Despite a religious ban on gambling in Iran, several Persian-language gambling sites have surfaced on the internet during recent years.

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