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The Media Lens

Sameera Casmod | sameerac@radioislam.co.za
16 August 2023 | 08:18am SAST
2 min read

Photo Credit: WORDCRAFTWITHANNISA

The Iranian Family Protection Bill has kindled a debate within the country’s parliament, shedding light on the sociopolitical landscape of Iran and the complexity of the issues at hand. The bill, commonly known as the “Hijab Bill,” proposes penalties for not wearing the hijab, further intensifying tensions that have been brewing since the Mahsa Amini protests a year ago. This issue was the focal point of discussion during this week’s edition of the Media Lens with Hafez Ibrahim Deen on Radio Islam International.

The Mahsa Amini protests, which began in September last year, initially centred around opposition to the compulsory wearing of the hijab. Over time, however, the protests morphed into a broader symbol of discontent with the ruling regime. The subsequent crackdown resulted in over 500 reported deaths, some hangings, and approximately 20,000 arrests.

Since mid-June, the Iranian regime has adopted a firmer stance, as evidenced by the return of the morality police to the streets in July. In this context, the emergence of the Family Protection Bill has further intensified the situation. The bill, which has been subject to debates in Parliament, proposes stringent penalties, including imprisonment of up to 10 years, substantial fines, and loss of employment, for those who do not comply with the hijab requirement.

One aspect of the bill’s debate is the secrecy surrounding the voting process. While opposition has arisen from various segments of society, the regime remains determined to pass the bill before the anticipated September protests. However, the bill’s path to becoming law involves navigating the Iranian political system, including reviews by the Council of Guardians and the Expediency Council, leading to potential amendments or changes.

The media’s coverage of this issue has been criticised for lacking a nuanced understanding of the Iranian political system. Many outlets have presented the bill as law rather than as draft legislation that still requires the approval of various governing bodies. This oversight contributes to a skewed perception of the bill’s status and the intricacies of the political landscape in Iran.

Furthermore, the media’s portrayal has overlooked the fact that opposition to the bill extends beyond the clerical elite to sectors within the ruling establishment. This indicates a broader political motive behind the bill, rather than solely a religious one. The media’s myopic focus on Iran as a theocracy has obscured the complexity of the relationship between the clerical and political establishments.

The passing of the bill could have far-reaching consequences. Despite potential amendments, the bill’s essence may further alienate a population already growing disillusioned with the government. With the decline in popular legitimacy, the regime’s response appears to be a doubling down on strict measures. This move might not bode well for the struggling Iranian economy, potentially increasing pressure on the regime.

While the Iranian regime is unlikely to collapse due to external factors, such as the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, the eroding popular legitimacy may transform Iran’s political landscape. As the regime’s legitimacy wanes, it risks becoming a mere facade of democratic governance. The weakened public trust in elections and leadership could have an effect on the Iranian economy and political landscape.

Listen | This week’s edition of the Media Lens on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaiman Ravat.

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