Western-style barbers get the chop in Iran


Police in Tehran have closed two dozen barber shops and hairdressers in a fortnight in the latest phase of a "morals" crackdown aimed at enforcing Islamic dress codes among young Iranians.

The businesses were shut after being identified as purveyors of decadent "western" culture.

Eleven women's hair-stylists were told to stop trading for offering customers' tattoos. Tattooed eyebrows - in which the hair is shaved and replaced with elaborate patterns - are popular amongst many young Iranian women.

One women's salon was shut when authorities discovered one of its employees was a man, a crime under Iran's Islamic laws.

A further 13 barbers were closed for giving customers excessively eye-catching haircuts and plucking men's eyebrows. Many young Iranian men wear their hair in a gelled-up bouffant that would look outlandish even in some western countries.

The closures were imposed by Amaken-e Omoomi, a police body for regulating businesses such as shops, restaurants and hotels, after it inspected more than 730 hairdressers in Tehran.

They follow a concerted summer campaign to stamp out widespread flouting of Iran's Islamic dress code by younger people.

Since last May, thousands of women have been arrested or warned for wearing hijab - or headscarves - that reveal too much hair. Women have also been detained for wearing overcoats deemed too short and figure-hugging and for short trousers that reveal excess skin. Large numbers of police officers have been deployed in busy areas of Tehran and other cities to identify transgressors.

Men arrested in the patrols have been forced to identify their barbers and get fresh haircuts. They have then had to return to police stations for officers to decide whether their hairstyles are acceptable.

Mohammad Ali Najafi, head of Amaken-e Omoomi, told Fars news agency that police officers would accompany trade inspectors in future visits to barbers and hairdressers. Those breaking the law would be closed immediately, he said.

The morals clampdown has come amid a broader law-and-order offensive which the government says is aimed at increasing "social security". Large numbers of "thugs" and "hooligans" have been arrested in police raids. More than 30 offenders have been hanged - some publicly - in the past five weeks for crimes including murder, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking.

The campaign has coincided with a crackdown on political dissent that has seen the arrests of academics, students and women's rights activists.

Officials have accused those arrested of fomenting a "soft revolution" against the Islamic regime.

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