TEHRAN - Police in Tehran have arrested 29 women for appearing in public without a headscarf as protests against the dress code in force since the Islamic revolution of 1979 intensify.
Those arrested were accused of public order offences and referred to the state prosecutor's office, the Fars, ILNA and Tasnim news agencies reported without elaborating.
More women in #Iran are risking imprisonment by removing their #hijab to protest against forced hijab and posting it with the hashtag #دختران_خیابان_انقلاب meaning “the girls of Enghelab street” which was the street where #VidaMovahed first took off her hijab.#IranProtests pic.twitter.com/tqpwxQfoSl— Armin Navabi (@ArminNavabi) January 29, 2018
Chief prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had played down the escalating protests on Wednesday, saying they were "trivial" and "childish" moves possibly incited by foreigners.
He had been asked about a woman detained earlier this week for standing on a pillar box in a busy street without the mandatory headscarf.
Unprecedented images of at least 11 women protesting the same way had been widely shared on social media.
A prominent human rights lawyer told AFP on Tuesday that bail for one of the detained women had been set at more than $100,000 (R1.1-million).
More & more brave #IranianWomen & even men & old people protest against #ForcedHijab, risking imprisonment & torturing in Iran’s jails. They deserve worldwide solidarity! Let’s not close the eyes for this discrimination! #Feminism #WomensMarch ? #دختران_خیابان_انقلاب pic.twitter.com/3AOOgUT0wu— Darya Safai (@SafaiDarya) February 1, 2018
But even religiously conservative Iranians have voiced support for the protests, with many saying that religious rules should be a personal choice.
At least two photos shared on Twitter on Wednesday showed women in traditional black chador robes, standing on pillar box with signs supporting freedom of choice for women.
One held a sign reading: "I love my hijab but I'm against compulsory hijab."
Make no mistake, the growing resistance to the #ForcedHijab is inhefrent part of the #IranProtests, probably the most successful and widespread part of an uprising that is smarter and more enduring than the predecessors. Bottom line, it is all over society and bottom up pic.twitter.com/ogHpVu1cri— Walid Phares (@WalidPhares) February 2, 2018
Another image surfacing of a woman in #Iran, waving her #hijab in protest. This is a growing movement within #IranianProtests where women are taking the lead in the fight for a #FreeIran pic.twitter.com/J7DupqEB7l— Annika H Rothstein (@truthandfiction) January 30, 2018
Montazeri said those flouting "hijab" rules -- which require headscarves and modest clothing -- must have been encouraged by outsiders.
Female activist Azar Mansouri, a member of the reformist Union of Islamic Iranian People party, said attempts to control female clothing had failed over many decades.
"Women show their opposition to such forceful approaches by their very clothing, from resisting covering their hair to wearing long boots and leggings," she wrote in a series of tweets this week.
Women have increasingly flouted the Islamic republic's clothing rules in recent years and often let their headscarves fall around their necks.
Morality police once rigidly enforced the rules, but are a much less common sight since President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, promising greater civil liberties.
The protests appear to mirror that of a woman who stood in Tehran's busy Enghelab (Revolution) Street in December without a headscarf and waving a white scarf on a stick.
She was reportedly kept in detention for nearly a month and has since kept a low profile.