Baby steps? Toddlers in Iran taught chastity, hijab lessons

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Islamic dress and notions of chastity will be taught to toddlers in Iran, as part of a move by the country to instill Islamic teachings into the younger generation, a report on Wednesday revealed.

The governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, has recently stressed the importance of “popularizing” chastity and hijab among Iranians, advising that kindergarteners be taught, “before reaching those in higher education,” the Guardian reported.

“We cannot expect to see hijab and chastity exist in society without proper cultural work,” he said. “Our goal in the social transformation plan devised by the government is institutionalizing chastity and hijab as a natural [demand] in society,” he said.

Islamist rulers in Iran have recently ordered stricter enforcement measures from the Iranian Moral Police and the Revolutionary Guards.

Recently, Iranian police have bolstered the enforcement of modesty laws. Women wearing mandatory headscarves improperly or in “vulgar” dress are usually warned before being fined or detained in police stations.

As for a program targeting toddlers, the welfare office of the Iranian city of Qom is reportedly “training 400 experts on hijab and chastity who will be sent to kindergartens across the city,” according to the Guardian.

The report added that 1,530 kindergartens under the jurisdiction of a north-eastern province have already held “chastity and hijab exhibitions” in recent months.

“Research has found that indirect methods have more effect on kids,” welfare officer Tahereh Bakhtiyari said in comments to the newspaper. “Using art expression is one of these methods.”

During the spring and summer months, Iran’s morality police scour the country’s streets in search for inappropriately dressed women.

In July 2012, a new initiative was set out to praise women who had been dressing modestly in the high temperature months. In a northern Iranian province, “modesty squads,” gave out rose to women they deemed to be conservatively dressed.

According to Iranian police Chief Ismael Ahmadi Moqadam last June, Iran now wants to intensify its struggle against women who it believes dress in an un-Islamic way.

But some critics had branded the rose “gifts” to modestly dressed women as patronizing.

“Just who is the Iranian government to intervene and distinguish between ‘good and bad’ women?” Alireza Nourizadeh, the director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies in London, told Al Arabiya English.

According to Nourizadeh, the rose-giving was perhaps an attempt by the government to change tact over how to advise women to dress modestly.

“Some of the moderately dressed women would complain that the regime would harshly tell ladies on the street what to wear. They said that Islam-related advice should be said in a calmer, advisory way, and so now they are doing this.”

“But this method shows no respect for women. It shows that women are a tool,” Nourizadeh said, adding that this was another way women in Iran are being judged.

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