Police have closed hundreds of restaurants in major Iranian cities during a more-severe-than-usual Ramadan crackdown, while authorities have urged citizens to report “immoral behavior” by texting a dedicated hotline.
“The owners of restaurants and cafes in which Islamic principles were not observed were confronted, and during this operation 547 businesses were closed in Tehran and 11 offenders arrested,” Tehran police chief Hossein Rahimi said on the official department website.
The establishments were shut down in the past fortnight over “unconventional advertising in cyberspace, playing illegal music and debauchery.
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Similar mass police interventions were reported throughout the country, including the sealing-up of over 300 restaurants in the third-largest city, Ishafan.
The holy month of Ramadan, which ended on June 4, during which devout Muslims are forbidden from eating between dawn and dusk, is usually accompanied by intensive behavior policing, including frequent arrests of those caught eating in the daytime, though such behavior is not legally banned.
Denunciation hotline & all-female hijab police
But activities this year are suggestive of wider social tensions between the urbanized population and hardline officials.
On Saturday, Tehran’s guidance court, which ensures compliance with social edicts, issued a phone number through which citizens could report unsavory acts, such as “hosting mixed gender dance parties” or posting “immoral content on Instagram.”
“People would like to report those breaking the norms but they don't know how ... We decided to accelerate dealing with instances of public immoral acts,” its head Mohammad Mehdi Hajmohammadi told Mizan Online.
Police are reportedly launching a pilot project in which 2,000 morality police units, consisting of six women each, will be sent to the streets in the province of Gilan to observe that women are wearing headscarves, in accordance with rules adopted after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
A demonstrative refusal to wear the hijab has become a common form of female rights protest in the country in the past two years. Officials have dismissed it as a Western plot, and say that keeping the hijab in place is a “matter of national security.”