Iran says face recognition will identify women breaking hijab laws

By | January 11, 2023

Wired reports:

Last month, a young woman went to work at Sarzamineh Shadi, or Land of Happiness, an indoor amusement park east of Iran’s capital, Tehran. After a photo of her without a hijab circulated on social media, the amusement park was closed, according to multiple accounts in Iranian media. Prosecutors in Tehran have reportedly opened an investigation.

Shuttering a business to force compliance with Iran’s strict laws for women’s dress is a familiar tactic to Shaparak Shajarizadeh. She stopped wearing a hijab in 2017 because she views it as a symbol of government suppression, and recalls restaurant owners, fearful of authorities, pressuring her to cover her head.

But Shajarizadeh, who fled to Canada in 2018 after three arrests for flouting hijab law, worries that women like the amusement park worker may now be targeted with face recognition algorithms as well as by conventional police work.

After Iranian lawmakers suggested last year that face recognition should be used to police hijab law, the head of an Iranian government agency that enforces morality law said in a September interview that the technology would be used “to identify inappropriate and unusual movements,” including “failure to observe hijab laws.” Individuals could be identified by checking faces against a national identity database to levy fines and make arrests, he said.

Two weeks later, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Jina Mahsa Amini died after being taken into custody by Iran’s morality police for not wearing a hijab tightly enough. Her death sparked historic protests against women’s dress rules, resulting in an estimated 19,000 arrests and more than 500 deaths. Shajarizadeh and others monitoring the ongoing outcry have noticed that some people involved in the protests are confronted by police days after an alleged incident—including women cited for not wearing a hijab. “Many people haven’t been arrested in the streets,” she says. “They were arrested at their homes one or two days later.”

Although there are other ways women could have been identified, Shajarizadeh and others fear that the pattern indicates face recognition is already in use—perhaps the first known instance of a government using face recognition to impose dress law on women based on religious belief. [Continue reading…]

Al Monitor reports:

The office of Iran’s prosecutor-general issued a series of new directives Tuesday to the country’s police to act “decisively” against women who fail to comply with the country’s controversial hijab rules.

The ISNA news agency quoted Deputy Prosecutor-General Abdolsamad Khorramabadi as saying that police will be obliged to arrest and hand over to the judiciary women who remove their headscarves in public. Outlining detailed penalties, he said those women could face detention from 10 days to two months, while other measures were also at the disposal of judges, including a range of bans on work and political activity as well as banishment and confiscation of vehicles.

The new hijab penalties announced by the Iranian judiciary come against a backdrop of unprecedented defiance from women frustrated by decades under the draconian rules. Despite the repressive measures in recent months, an increasing number of them, especially in Tehran, have been going about their public daily lives without their hijabs, not to mention twirling and burning headscarves at protests. Those gestures have triggered calls from regime loyalists for the forceful “return” of headscarves. [Continue reading…]

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