The Iranian government is handicapped by unrelenting sanctions that do not look as though they are going away anytime soon. The country’s economic paralysis is compounded by the inadequacies of a squad of callow officials and corrupt functionaries, whose nepotism triggers frequent scandals these days. While the sanctions have almost irreversibly insulated the national economy from the outside world and rendered Iran’s banking and financial sectors irrelevant, the iron-fisted establishment has been unable to tame its top-tier white collar professionals’ greed and deter them from siphoning off what is left of the nation’s wealth. It banks only on people’s short memory spans and the media’s tied hands in covering corruption so that these debacles are forgotten before long.
In one recent instance that has generated national fury, it was revealed by an activist that a 350-acre endowment in the city of Qazvin, which includes a historical mansion constructed in 1859, had been leased to the daughter-in-law of Seyed Mehdi Khamoushi, a senior cleric and head of the well-heeled Awqaf and Charity Affairs Organization, for a mere $20 per month. The lease agreement was signed in 2018, but the authorities had kept the story under wraps until a Twitter user blew the whistle on it. The explosive disclosure has once more brought the conundrum of lingering corruption in the Islamic Republic to light.
Yet it appears the cash-starved economy on the brink of implosion has more than enough funds to bankroll a domestic blitzkrieg aimed at saddling half of the population with a political preference: compulsory hijab. To be sure, for a majority of Muslim women, wearing the hijab is a personal choice inspired by their religious convictions, but in contemporary Iran, the government doesn’t view this decision that way. It mandates compliance as a guardrail that ensures its supremacy and has intertwined the policing of women’s dress with its identity, something that some officials have also blurted out sporadically, which is why it resorts to coercion to compel scores of women, against their will, to put on the Islamic head covering.
Over time, an entire “hijab-industrial complex” has taken shape that the leadership considers a perk of its governance, squandering a bulk of its cultural resources that ideally should go to empowering motion pictures, music, publishing houses, education and a diverse media landscape. [Continue reading…]