Compulsory hijab and gender discriminations in Iran’s chain stores

With the increases in pressures and limitations against women employees, mostly in Sanandaj’s“ETKA” stores, women face being fired for arbitrary reasons. Firing women for arbitrary reasons is also a form of violence against women and gender discrimination


News Center- The Islamic Republic of Iran always creates severe social and economic gaps between women and men. Iranian dress code is one of the pressures imposed on Iranian women. This dress code limits women who do not agree with it, and causes the authorities to tell them what they have to wear and do in all spheres of life, and limit them to benefit from political, academic, social and cultural opportunities.

The compulsory hijab rules and principles cause gender discrimination at workplace and economic injustice which are the hidden backup layers for hijab rules.

While the Iranian people suffer from many problems and crises such as inflation, drought and water due to ineffective government’s policies, the authorities focus on how women have to wear instead of solving the problems faced by the people.

All government-affiliated organizations focus on implementing the compulsory hijab laws while some employers use these laws to fire women employees. “ETKA” chain stores in Sanandaj use these laws to fire women employees for arbitrary reasons.

NuJINHA interviewed some women employees of ETKA chain stores in Sanandaj. The names of women have been changed in this article for security reasons. The ETKA chain stores have branches all over Iran, including Sanandaj. According to women employees, women working for the chain stores face more gender discrimination than other stores in Iran.

They say women don’t wear their hijab properly to seduce men

Hina is one of the women working for the chain stores. “I have been working for the chain stores for two years. Every day, we face more restrictions. We have to obey them or we will be fired like one of our colleagues, who was fired only because of putting on a pale lipstick. We are not allowed to dress well for work like women employees of other stores. Once we were told that our boss has received complaints from customers because women employees do not wear proper hijab and seduce men,” she told us.

Of course male employees don’t have a proper working conditions either, but women face more restrictions

Raha is a 27-year-old woman, who is the breadwinner of her family because her father is sick. “We are only allowed to wear black clothes in the store. We are not even allowed to wear colorful shoes and we only have to wear simple sneakers. Wearing a scarf is completely forbidden for women and everyone has to wear a veil even in summer. No one cares if we oppose this although we have worked here for many years. They simply tell us to quit if we have any problem with the rules. Of course, male employees don’t have proper working conditions either, but women face more restrictions,” she said.

Not even a single strand of hair can be left out of the scarf

Sanaz also complains about the rules of the chain stores. “We are not allowed to have a manicure or paint our nails. Even married women who dye their hair cannot show a strand of hair and have to cover their hair under their scarves. They do not even let us use our mobile phones. Raha’s father is sick and she takes him to the hospital very often. She sometimes goes to the bathroom secretly to call her father in order to control him. Each of us, as a representative of a company, has the duty to arrange and sell our company's products, but they also tell us to do the cleaning.”

We have to obey otherwise we will be fired like our friend

Negin spoke about the fire of one of their colleagues and said, “The restrictions put so much pressure on us but we all keep working because we have no choice. A while ago, they even fired one of our colleagues for putting on a pale lipstick. Our colleague was a simple girl who minded her own business. During a meeting, she put on a pale lipstick so as not to look pale. They fired her as soon as they saw her face. She was a senior expert. We all have to obey what they tell us in order not to be fired like her.”

We received an order stating we shouldn’t hire women and fire the ones, who are currently working with us

Elnaz was worried about the firing of women employees. “They have told us to watch out for our behavior several times. We received an order stating we shouldn’t hire women and we even have to fire the ones, who are currently working with us. I have lots of loans to pay off but they don’t understand us at all. They haven’t even shown us the document ordering the firing of women employees. They only talk about it.

They make excuses to fire us

Sara, a 24-year-old employee who doesn’t have a stable economic condition, spoke about the excuses to fire women. “The chain stores make excuses to fire women employees. For instance, we were told that we have to increase our sales to 200 million Tomans per month, otherwise we will be fired. Now we work very hard to increase our sales. The employers find excuses to fire women.”

Sara also told us that women face gender discriminations in the store and said, “We have two types of employees, cooperative and corporate. Corporate employees have more benefits and salaries, but they never hire women as corporate employees. There are many women who work more than men, but they don’t let them work as corporate employees.  They say only corporate employees can work as cashiers but they use women as cashiers even though they are not corporate employees. There is not a single woman working as an administrative staff of the store and all administrative staff are men.”