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Iran Considering Law Against Western Attire

May 20, 2006|From the Associated Press

TEHRAN — Iran's parliament is debating a draft law that would discourage women from wearing Western clothing, increase taxes on imported clothes and fund an advertising campaign to encourage citizens to wear Islamic-style garments.

The draft received preliminary approval Sunday and lawmakers debated it this week, but the conservative-dominated parliament has not passed the bill. If adopted, the measure also will require approval by the Guardian Council, a hard-line constitutional watchdog.

Legislators strongly denied a Canadian newspaper report that the measure included provisions requiring Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and other non-Muslims to wear a patch of colored cloth on the front of their garments.

The National Post, quoting "Iranian expatriates living in Canada," said the law would require "Iran's roughly 25,000 Jews ... to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth."

In Tehran, legislator Emad Afroogh, who sponsored the bill and chairs the parliament's cultural committee, said, "It's a sheer lie. The rumors about this are worthless.

"The bill is not related to minorities.... There is no mention of religious minorities and their clothing in the bill."

Iranian Jewish lawmaker Morris Motamed said, "Such a plan has never been proposed or discussed in parliament. Such news, which appeared abroad, is an insult to religious minorities here."

According to the bill, a joint committee of the parliament and Cabinet ministers would decide on the tax increase on imported clothes and other details.

Under existing law, women must cover themselves from head to toe, but many young women, buoyed by social freedoms granted to them during the 1997-2005 rule of President Mohammad Khatami, ignore the mandate.

Iran's Islamic law imposes tight restrictions on women. They need a male guardian's permission to work or travel. They are not allowed to become judges, and a man's court testimony is considered twice as important as a woman's.

But they have more rights than women in some other Muslim countries. They can drive, vote and run for office.

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