Each woman spotted out and about, deemed to be modestly dressed by female members of the squad, is given a rose, according to report from the Israel-based Ynet news on Sunday.
Islamist rulers in Iran have recently ordered stricter enforcement measures from the Iranian Moral Police and the Revolutionary Guards.
According to Iranian police Chief Ismael Ahmadi Moqadam last June, Iran now wants to intensify its struggle against women who it believes dress in an un-Islamic way.
Moqadam said last month that his forces require the assistance of Iran’s “moral capital and pious people,” and that the regime “must not allow the virus to spread by badly worn headscarves.”
But some critics have branded the rose “gifts” to modestly dressed women as patronizing.
“Just who is the Iranian government to intervene and distinguish between ‘good and bad’ women?” asks Alireza Nourizadeh, the director of the Center for Arab & Iranian Studies in London.
“The good woman, who follows Islamic instructions and is covered from top to toe, gets a flower,” Nourizadeh added, mockingly summarizing his interpretation of the phenomenon.
According to Nourizadeh, the rose-giving is perhaps an attempt by the government to change tact over how to advise women to dress modestly.
“Some of the moderately dressed women would complain that the regime would harshly tell ladies on the street what to wear. They said that Islam-related advice should be said in a calmer, advisory way, and so now they are doing this.”
“But this method shows no respect for women. It shows that women are a tool,” Nourizadeh said, adding that it is another way women in Iran are being judged.
Recently, Iranian police have bolstered the enforcement of modesty laws. Women wearing mandatory headscarves improperly or in “vulgar” dress are usually warned before being fined or detained in police stations, Ynet reported.
Police use motorcycles and minivans to screen foot and vehicle traffic at major junctions and shopping centers. The unit includes some 70,000 officers, according to its commander.
The seasonal heat stroke?
When asked what the new phenomenon means for the future of modesty laws in Iran, Nourizadeh referred to it as a “seasonal problem” – a thorn in the bush for Iranian women during the hot summer months that will end when the weather turns cooler, and re-start when summer kicks in again.
“We see this every year,” explains Nourizadeh. While the Islamic dress code stands throughout the year, women in Iran during the summer understandably choose to don lighter clothing, notes Nourizadeh, which provokes regime forces to interfere with the issue of “modest dress” more so than they would in the winter.
“If the month of Ramadan had fallen within the winter months this year, we would not have had this problem,” said Nourizadeh.
This year, the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours, has come during the July-August summer heat.
“Everything will return to how it was last year when summer ends,” Nourizadeh added, expecting a quieted regime interference into what women wear when the heat dwindles.