Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reaffirmed a fatwa declaring that women are forbidden to ride bicycles in public and in the presence of strangers that are not part of their immediate family, Radio Farda reported on Monday.
Khamenei’s so-called fatwa office reported in August 2016 that “from the ayatollah’s point of view, women are only permitted to ride motorbikes or bicycles so long as it does not attract strangers or lead to corrupt behavior.” The statement added: “Therefore, women should contemplate where and in what situation they will ride a bicycle. If they respect the said points, then riding bicycles for them would be permissible.”
President Hassan Rouhani’s deputy for women affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, confirmed the guidelines shortly after the announcement. “According to the supreme leader’s office, riding bicycles by women is permissible, provided they respect the principles of shari’a law,” she said.
However, ultra-conservative outlets continue to refer to comments made by Khamenei 21 years ago at a meeting with the staff of the Physical Education Organization, in which he insisted that “It is improper for girls to ride bicycles on the streets of Tehran. And ostentation and attracting strangers is also forbidden for women in sports.”
Activists have since tried to protest the gender-discriminating policy by initiating a “Tuesdays Without Vehicles” campaign, but the group came under vicious attack by religious leaders and were forced to abandon their plans. The protest also led to several women being detained while riding bicycles in support of the initiative.
The fatwa sparked a social media movement of woman posting pictures of themselves riding bikes. The Independent reported in September 2016. Earlier that month, Khamenei had said that a woman’s role in society should be limited to “motherhood and housekeeping.”
Despite President Rouhani pledging to improve the freedoms of the citizens of Iran, international observers have observed that the human rights situation in the Islamic Republic continues to deteriorate.
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