They will, however, have to attend educational classes, according to the capital’s police.
For almost 40 years, women in Iran have been compelled by law to wear a headscarf in public.
Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, it was a rule enforced by the country’s Morality Police, who fined or even jailed women found to be breaching the law.
Even donning “bad hijab”, where women wearing a headscarf allowed a little hair to show above their forehead, could incur repercussions.
However, that’s all about to change according to Tehran police.
Women who go without a hijab in the capital will no longer be arrested if they do not observe the nation’s dress code, The Telegraph reports, in a week when Tehran has been rocked by anti-government protests that have seen more than 20 people killed and 450 people arrested.
Instead, women caught without a headscarf will be made to attend Islam educational classes, according to local media reports citing Tehran police chief General Hossein Rahimi.
“Those who do not observe the Islamic dress code will no longer be taken to detention centres, nor will judicial cases be filed against them,” General Rahimi was quoted as saying.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency added, however, that repeat offenders could still be subject to legal action—and that arrests could still be enforced outside the capital.
Twitter user and Iranian author Armin Navabi, however, said he had been told by a woman in the country that it was only women wearing improper hijab that would no longer be arrested.
1) A girl from Tehran explains to me that hijab in Iran remains compulsory. The police in Tehran was only referring to people with improper hijab. And that even people with improper hijab would need to attend mandatory Islamic Norm classes. pic.twitter.com/zmM0SR9Krt
— Armin Navabi (@ArminNavabi) December 31, 2017
Journalist Masih Alinejad, who is behind social movement My Stealthy Freedom, also told the New York Times that while the policy change was an achievement, General Rahimi’s statement could be interpreted in different ways.
“In his statement, the police chief said if the scarf falls off ‘accidentally,’ the women will not be arrested but sent to educational classes,” Alinejad said.
In many other Middle Eastern countries, such as the UAE, the hijab is worn with pride by Muslim women but they face no legal obligations should they choose not to wear it.
In recent years, women in Iran have protested the law by removing their headscarf in public, even if just for a brief moment, and posting pictures on social media.
Some have even resorted to shaving their head so they can go without the hijab.