Isfahan Prosecutor Bans “Sinful Act” of Women Riding Bicycles

Citing domestic Islamic religious decrees and common law, Isfahan city prosecutor Ali Isfahani announced on May 14, 2019, a ban on female bicyclists.

“Based on fatwas by religious scholars as well as the law, bicycling by women in public spaces is a sinful act,” Isfahani told the state-funded Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

The prosecutor also announced that an “Office for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” had been established “in accordance with the law” to prevent women bicyclists from publicly engaging in the activity.

“For a long time, Friday prayer leaders and families of martyrs complained about women riding bicycles in public areas and there were some cases of assault and harassment against these women,” he added.

“In response, the police have been instructed to give a polite warning if they see a woman riding a bicycle in the city for the first time and take her identification document, and if she doesn’t have one, they should impound the bicycle,” he said.

Isfahani continued: “First-time offenders will have to go to the security police and sign a pledge. They will not be punished and their personal documents and bicycles will be returned. If they repeat this sinful act two or three times, they will be punished in accordance with the Islamic Penal Code.”

Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, religious conservatives and hardline officials have condemned women’s engagement in public exercise activities that are freely enjoyed by men, often describing them as “immoral.”

In a September 2018 sermon, Isfahan Friday Prayer Leader Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabaeinejad said he had been complaining about women bicyclists for a decade because “most religious scholars believe it’s not proper.”

“According to Islamic traditions, sinful glances [at female bicyclists] are the devil’s poisonous arrows that will undoubtedly lead to further moral corruption.”

No Iranian law explicitly bans women bicyclists.

The Law to Support Promoters of Virtue and Preventers of Vice, which is often referenced when women are prosecuted for engaging in public activities that are deemed “immoral” by the authorities, makes no mention of female cyclists.

While addressing reporters, Isfahani suggested covering women’s bicycles so people can’t see them when they’re riding.

“As a solution,” Isfahani told IRNA, “I made a proposal to the municipality and the police to design a bicycle with a suitable cover for women so that they can ride in public areas.”

In a written response to a question by an unnamed citizen, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared on September 18, 2016, “Bicycle riding by women in public spaces, as well as in areas where they can be seen by strangers, is a sin.”

Khamenei published his resident after residents of the city of Marivan launched an August 2016 anti-pollution cycling campaign that also came under fire by the authorities who banned women from riding bikes there as well.

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