Demographically, Iran should be a democracy. It has high literacy and education rates, a large and vibrant middle class, independent labor and business communities, and a strong tradition of political organizing and involvement. The regime retains authoritarian rule in large part because it firmly controls so much of Iranians' public lives. The regime typically increases these controls in times of social unrest. The baseej, an informal citizen militia loosely tied to the state, can closely monitor their neighbors and brutally enforce state restrictions. Many Iranians become so consumed with navigating these complicated laws that public spaces become places of fear and self-censorship. Because phone taps are common and because your neighbor might be a baseej who closely monitors whoever enters your home, even private spaces are suffocated by state control. Regulating hair styles may not seem like it would be very effective, but this move is part of a sweeping, pervasive strategy to engineer individual freedom out of every imaginable aspect of public life.
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