Who let the dogs out? Walking a pooch in Iran is ‘symbol of resistance’

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Iranians taking their dogs for “walkies” on the streets of the Islamic Republic has been increasingly seen as a way to defy the government, Britain’s the Guardian reported this week.

Owning dogs has become an growingr trend in Iran’s urban upper class over the past 15 years, despite the practice technically being prohibited by Islamic law.


Ordinances created three years ago have allowed authorities to seize dogs being walked outside in addition to imposing heavy fines from $100 to $500 for the “seditionist” or “un-Islamic” act.

iran dogs reuters
iran dogs reuters

Now, dog owners are reportedly using the walks in protest of the ordinances. As the legislation is unevenly enforced, according to the newspaper, walking dogs in public has become a de facto symbol of defiance against authority.

While dogs are considered unclean by Islamic law, a conservative Iranian cleric went as far to denounce the activity as exercising “moral depravity,” the newspaper reported.

The act has become something Iranians are testing more and more under its new, seemingly more moderate administration.

Owning a dog is also largely seen as conforming to Western norms, something frowned upon to say the least by conservatives. The bill states that dog ownership “poses a cultural problem, a blind imitation of the vulgar culture of the West.”

In June 2010, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirzi labeled dog companionship as a blind imitation of Western culture, warning that such behavior would lead to family corruption and damage societal values.

The constant fluctuation within civic life of things permitted and forbidden is common within Iranian society and mirrors the consistently wavering political atmosphere.

Although newly-elected President Hassan Rowhani has made promises of moderation have given hope to some, Tehran is still patrolled by moral police condemning those who violate Islamic dress code.

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