Iran To Require Religious Minorities to Wear “Special Insignia”

by Roger Alford

This is very disturbing news. As reported here, “the Iranian parliament, called the Islamic Majlis, passed a law this week setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical “standard Islamic garments.” The law, which must still be approved by Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenehi before being put into effect, also establishes special insignia to be worn by non-Muslims. Iran’s roughly 25,000 Jews would have to sew a yellow strip of cloth on the front of their clothes, while Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would be forced to wear blue cloth.” (HT: Mirror of Justice) Sound familiar?

What is the purpose of the law? According to the Jerusalem Post, it “is to prevent Muslims from becoming najis ‘unclean’ by accidentally shaking the hands of non-Muslims in public.”

In addition, all Iranians must wear “standard Islamic garments” to establish “visual equality” for Iranians as they prepare for the return of the Hidden Imam.

This is cause for serious concern. I have heard first-hand reports of the persecution and death of Christians in Iran. Special insignia opens the door for widespread discrimination and persecution of religious minorities.

UPDATE: The text of the Iranian law is available in Farsi here. The English translation is here. I do not see a reference to any provision in the law that concerns special insignia for religious minorities. As discussed in the comments, there are growing doubts that the Canadian National Post story is correct. The National Post now appears to be backtracking from the original story.

UPDATE: The National Post has now apologized for the story. As reported here, Douglas Kelly, the editor-in-chief, stated that “It is now clear the story is not true. We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story.”

11 Responses

  1. Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center has just published this letter written to Secretary General Kofi Annan about the Iranian law. “Now is the time for the United Nations and the international community to launch an immediate investigation, to seek clarification from the Iranians themselves on whether or not the new “National Uniform Law” would single out non-Moslems and require them to wear a color-coded identification patch.”

  2. According to Helena Cobban at ‘Just World News:’

    Yellow Stars for Iranian Jews? The Disinfo Campaign

    Back in May the US Congress, in its cravenly Israelocentric way, voted huge gobs of money to go into the destabilization of Iran under the so-called “Iran Freedom Support Act”. (Which follows the same strategy the neo-cons used back at the beginning of their project to “con” Americans into invading Iraq. Anyone remember that?)

    But how on earth is the administration going to spend all this new IFSA money?

    I am sure that the people tasked to do this– who include several longtime neocons from the Pentagon’s infamous former Office of Special Plans– will have lots of “plans” for how to go about it. But one of them may well be to do all kinds of disinformation about the Iranian regime… Including getting their old pal Amir Taheri to pen an op-ed in Canada’s National Post which claims that last Monday, the Iranian parliament passed a law that,

    envisages separate dress codes for religious minorities, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, who will have to adopt distinct colour schemes to make them identifiable in public…

    Religious minorities would have their own colour schemes. They will also have to wear special insignia, known as zonnar, to indicate their non-Islamic faiths. Jews would be marked out with a yellow strip of cloth sewn in front of their clothes while Christians will be assigned the colour red. Zoroastrians end up with Persian blue as the colour of their zonnar.

    Scary stuff indeed. Especially coming from a regime whose President has cast public doubts on the facticity of the Holocaust and made some extremely hostile remarks about Israel…

    Except that all of Amir Taheri’s scaremongering about these special dress-codes and insignia is constructed out of, well, “whole cloth”. (Which is to say, it is quite baseless.)

    But it seems that some “world leaders” are prepared to believe just about anything bad they hear about the Iranian regime, and don’t hesitate to criticise Teheran roundly for its alleged misdeeds even before they do any even basic checking on the veracity of the underlying accusations. Thus, we see in this report in The Australian that,

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard said overnight, during an official visit to Ottawa, that “anything of that kind would be totally repugnant to civilised countries, if it’s the case, and something that would just further indicate to me the nature of this regime. It would be appalling.”

    Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he had only seen reports about the law but that he would not be surprised by them.

    “Unfortunately, we have seen enough already from the Iranian regime to suggest that it is very capable of this kind of action,” he said.

    “It think it boggles the mind that any regime on the face of the earth would want to do anything that could remind people of Nazi Germany,” he added.

    “The fact that such a measure could even be contemplated, I think, is absolutely abhorrent.”

    But it wasn’t. It was all just Taheri’s fabrication.

    It seems that on May 14, the Iranian parliament did pass legislation dealing with the need to buttress the existing nationwide dress-code and build up an Iranian clothing industry to support… But colleagues whom I trust who read Farsi assure me that there is nothing in there at all about any special clothing or markers for religious or national minorities.

    Taheri has been a busy person these past few days… If you go to the information page about him on the website of the well-connected neocon “Speakers Bureau” Eleana Benador Associates, you will see that he has published eleven op-ed pieces since May 9. Nearly all of them are virulently anti-Teheran. The main exception to that is this totally non-credible piece of propaganda about how well the US occupation authorities have been doing in Iraq…

    Well, Taheri is just one ideological (though probably at this very point, very nicely paid) uber-hack. The more serious question is why national leaders like Howard and Harper were so perfectly primed to “respond” so quickly to the very damaging (and baseless) accusation that he had made about a foreign government. Maybe next time they could have their people do some fact-checking before they open their mouths?

  3. Roger,

    When you click on the link for the article it now states that it is ‘no longer available.’ Do you know why?

  4. Patrick,

    No I don’t know, although the latest Google news search reveals over 75 articles on the topic. A couple of these articles, see here and here, are casting doubt on, or are seeking confirmation of the accuracy of the original story.


    Iran: Lawmakers Debate Women’s Clothing

    Associated Press May 20, 2006

    … Emad Afroogh, the legislator who sponsored the bill and is chairman of Parliament’s Cultural Committee, said that the Canadian report was untrue and that the measure sought only to make women dress more conservatively and avoid Western fashions. Another lawmaker, Morris Motamed, a Jew, also said the Canadian report was false.

  6. See too Juan Cole’s post, part of which I reproduce here:

    Another Fraud on Iran: No Legislation on Dress of Religious Minorities

    Maurice Motamed, the representative of the Iranian Jewish community in Iran’s parliament, has strongly denied the rumors started by Canada’s National Post that the Iranian legislature has passed a law requiring members of religious communities to wear identifying badges.

    The report was also denied on Montreal radio by Meir Javedanfar, Middle East Analyst and the Director for the Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company.

    The National Post is owned by Conrad Black and is not a repository of expertise about Iran. it is typical of black psychological operations campaigns that they begin with a plant in an obscure newspaper that is then picked up by the mainstream press. Once the Jerusalem Post picks it up, then reporters can source it there, even though the Post has done no original reporting and has just depended on the National Post article, which is extremely vague in its own sourcing (to “human rights groups”).

    The actual legislation passed by the Iranian parliament regulates women’s fashion, and urges the establishment of a national fashion house that would make Islamically appropriate clothing. There is a vogue for “Islamic chic” among many middle class Iranian women that involves, for instance, wearing expensive boots that cover the legs and so, it is argued, are permitted under Iranian law. The scruffy, puritanical Ahmadinejad and his backers among the hardliners in parliament are waging a new and probably doomed struggle against the young Iranian fashionistas. (The Khomeinists give the phrase “fashion police” a whole new meaning).

    There is nothing in this legislation that prescribes a dress code or badges for Iranian religious minorities, and Maurice Motamed was present during its drafting and says nothing like that was even discussed.

    The whole thing is a steaming crock.

    In fact, Iranian Jewish expatriates themselves have come out against a bombing campaign by the US or Israel against Iran. There are still tens of thousands of Jews in Iran, and expatriate Iranian Jews most often identify as Iranians and express Iranian patriotism. I was in Los Angeles when tens of thousands of Iranians immigrated, fleeing the Khomeini regime. I still remember Jewish Iranian families who suffered a year or two in what they thought of as the sterile social atmosphere of LA, and who shrugged and moved right back to Iran, where they said they felt more comfortable.

    This affair is similar to the attribution to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of the statement that “Israel must be wiped off the map.” No such idiom exists in Persian, and Ahmadinejad actually just quoted an old speech of Khomeini in which he said “The occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.” Of course Ahamdinejad does wish Israel would disappear, but he is not commander of the armed forces and could not attack it even if he wanted to, which he denies.

  7. There are several reports this morning that identify Iranian government sources denying that the new uniform law includes any provision for special insignia for religious minorities. See a denial by the Iranian Embassy in Canada here and here and a detailed denial by the only Jewish member of the Iranian parliament here and here.

  8. Good, thanks…now I can return to my blogging commentary hiatus, having broken my vow to take a break in reliance on an ad hoc (i.e., informal) ‘necessity defense.’

  9. This is a total bunch of nonsense, and only fools who believed in the imaginary WMDS in Iraq would believe this.

  10. naturally Cole has jumped all over this.

    Of course his take on the Ahmadinajad quote has already been debunked. Native Farsi speakers say that A. used a Farsi idion that is similar in connotation to wiped off the map, and that the reference to the occupation regime was clearly to Israel in general.

    I also know some Iranian Jews. AFAICT they all despise the regime, and their contacts in Iran do as well.

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