Source: The New York Times
The office of Iran’s president on Sunday charged into the middle of one of the most contentious debates over the character of the Islamic Republic, suddenly releasing a three-year-old report showing that nearly half of Iranians wanted an end to the requirement that women cover their heads in public.
The report’s release comes as dozens of women in recent weeks have protested in public against being forced to wear the veil, a symbol of Iran’s revolution as much as it is deemed a religious requirement.
The decision to release the report — which found that 49.8 percent of Iranians, both women and men, consider the Islamic veil a private matter and think the government should have no say in it — appears to pit President Hassan Rouhani directly against Iran’s hard-line judiciary, which on Friday said that 29 people had been detained in connection with the protests. They have called the demonstrations “childish,” insist that the large majority of Iranians support Islamic veiling and have called for harsher measures against those protesting the veil.
At least as striking as the report’s findings was the timing of its release. The study is from 2014, and publishing it now suggests that the president saw this as a moment to challenge the hard-liners, who hold ultimate power, about such a symbolically potent issue.