The ongoing power struggle between Iran’s hardliners and moderates has tangibly affected the nuclear talks, with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pushing for a deal with world powers and his political rivals, backed by ailing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, resisting rapprochement and continuing to demonize the West at every turn.
But the struggle continuously affects Iranian citizens, too – particularly its female ones. The hardline establishment has long been flexing its muscles by enforcing a strict Islamic dress code and forcing women to bare their heads, but now violent vigilante groups have been taking the law into their own hand.
How, you ask? By “terrorizing” women who don’t adhere to the dress code as strictly as they would like. With acid. Worse yet, the Iranian parliament could pass a bill legalizing these gangs as they roam the streets of Isfahan.
Fortunately, news of the acid attacks has drawn a strong backlash both in Iran and abroad, with thousands taking to the streets in protest and with Rouhani himself denouncing them and challenging the idea that virtue should be enforced by patrols. Leading foreign outlets from The New York Times to The Guardian have printed both the protestors’ and the president’s comments.
But while the protests go on, Iran’s women wait in fear to see if the bill is passed, if the attacks are stopped, if they can live in Iran with dignity. Will they win out over the hardliners? If women’s voices grow stronger along with those of the moderates, they can.