Iranian women dressing Western are 'causing rivers to run dry' - senior cleric

© Morteza Nikoubazl
Iran’s senior cleric criticized what he perceived as women’s overly liberal choices of clothing “as if they were in Europe,” and accused the trend of being behind one of Iran’s rivers drying up.

“My office has received photos of women next to the dry Zayandeh-rud River [the largest river in central Iran] pictured as if they are in Europe. It is these sorts of acts that cause the river to dry up even further,” ISNA News Agency cited cleric Seyyed Youssef Tabatabi-nejad as saying.

He then called on the Communications Ministry to ramp up its tactics on bringing to justice the “networks” that encourage immodesty in Iran’s women. “If you don’t do so, then you will have failed to carry out your duty. The Communications Ministry can discover and suffocate these individuals,” he went on.

“If we see a sin it’s useless that we only bicker about it. The police force can use the [paramilitary] Hezbollahi forces to carry out operations to root out vice,” the cleric said.

Dress code issues are normally dealt with by the morality police, whose activity has been on the rise, particularly with regards to failure by women to veil themselves properly – but not just that: listening to music too loudly in cars is also perceived as crossing the lines of decency.

Tabatabi-nejad is a senior official on the Assembly of Experts, a clerical body of 88 senior clerics who appoint Iran’s Supreme Leader. He’s not the only cleric who claimed natural disasters can be caused by dressing immorally. 

When President Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad warned in 2010 that an earthquake was coming, 12 million people were advised to relocate, another Iranian Mullah, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, then said: “Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes."

READ MORE: Over 30 Iranian students lashed 99 times for attending mixed graduation party

Despite religious practice informing a large part of society’s life in Iran, the Shiite country has long been discussed as a place where religious conduct and dress codes are observed strictly only by a portion of the population, while the rest continues to do so largely for the benefit of the morality police. Iranian dress custom is quite liberal compared to some of its neighbors.

Iran also goes a step further than some of its Islamic peers in terms of things like female representation in politics. According to the official voting results for parliamentary elections issued on Saturday, 17 women will become members of the 290-seat parliament – as compared to clerics, who only won 16 seats. That is an all-time low for clerics, according to AFP.