Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Turban, Not The Veil

Contradictory reports have been coming out of Iran over the past 48 hours. On the one hand, we saw reports claiming that the Mullah regime has dissolved the so-called morality police and will make recommendations on making changes to the law mandating the veil within two weeks. On the other hand, we saw the IRGC release a statement saying it “will not have mercy on the rioters, vandals, and terrorists.”

What does this mean? The Iranians in the opposition have strongly criticized the reports claiming the “dissolution of the morality police” and the review of the law mandating the veil, stressing that it is fake news. It is clear that the Mullah regime is dazed and anxious.

It also seems divided, as it has not conclusively settled the question of how to deal with what can now be called a real revolution. Indeed, it is a revolution in the sense that the regime has no clear strategy for dealing with it after having used only violence and repression to quell those that had preceded it.

The contradictory reports tell us that the regime is trying to split the ranks of the opposition with “empty promises” and threats of violence, as seen in the IRGC statement issued after the prosecutor general talked about “dissolving the morality police” and reviewing the veil law.

It also indicates a divergence of opinion among the various pillars of the regime over how to deal with the protests and the recent successful call for a three-day general strike.

Tweeting about the matter, Karim Sadjadpour, an Iranian-American researcher, wrote that when dictatorships know they’re in trouble they begin promising their citizens they will change who they are. These empty promises tend to embolden, rather than quell, popular demands for fundamental change. The Iranian regime appears to be entering this stage of its life cycle.

This is precisely what we saw with some Arab regimes during what became known as the Arab Spring. Decisions came too late after demands had already raised the bar too high, thus rendering the measures insufficient. They also gave the protesters the impression that the regime is weak and dazed, leading them to raise the bar even higher.

What Mullahs have yet to comprehend is that the demands have gone beyond removing the veil. The protesters want to remove the turban, to bring down the regime. For this reason, talk of reconsidering the head veil law, be it true or not, speaks volumes because this law is at the core of the regime’s ideology.

In a previous article for the Washington Post, Sadjadpour explained that the system of institutionalized violence has little to do with presumed Iranian religious traditions. He then adds that mandating veiling is one of the three remaining ideological pillars of the Iranian theocracy, citing the slogans of death to America and death to Israel as the other two.

Sajadpour then goes on to say that this helps explain the regime’s hatred of taking a less stringent position on the question of mandatory clothing. The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, believes that compromising on the pillars of the regime’s ideology, including the veil, will only accelerate its downfall.

And so, we are looking at a confused Mullah regime trying to rally around the demands of the Iranian people, who have smelled confusion and can see that the regime has gone weak. They are now no longer demanding the removal of the veil; they want the turban, the regime, gone.

There is no easy way of achieving this. I believe that we will see unprecedented escalation on the part of the regime. This will leave it in an even tighter spot- if not divided.