Leading Iran cleric opposes 'use of violence' to impose hijab
One of Iran's top Shia clerics, Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem, has spoken out against the use of violence to force women into wearing the Islamic veil.
Iran has witnessed a wave of nationwide protests since the September 16 death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old ethnic Kurd, after her arrest for an alleged breach of the Islamic republic's dress code for women.
Hundreds of people have been killed, including dozens of security personnel, and thousands have been arrested in the protests, which authorities generally refer to a "riots".
Makarem, a prominent cleric known for his conservative stance, said late on Thursday that he "does not consider violence and pressure to be effective in the hijab issue".
"The president and ministers should know that they are in a difficult situation; it is true the enemy is very active, but not all avenues are closed," he said, quoted by the official IRNA news agency.
"The hijab issue is currently linked to political issues, and some people say that if they can remove the veil, the Islamic republic's system will be weakened," the grand ayatollah added.
His remarks came a day after Iran's Tourism and Heritage Minister Ezzatollah Zarghami called for greater tolerance towards women not wearing mandatory headscarves.
Earlier this month, however, Iran's prosecutor general had called for police to "firmly punish any hijab violators".
Iran has accused its foreign foes, including the United States and Israel, of fomenting the protests that erupted over Amini's death in the custody of the country's morality police.