Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 06:30 | SYDNEY
Sunday 19 Aug 2018 | 06:30 | SYDNEY

In Tehran, 'Ugg' is a sound neanderthal police make


Sam Roggeveen


23 May 2008 09:13

Some friends of the Lowy Institute recently visited Iran. As you'll read, they had a bit of trouble with the authorities, but since they'd like to go back some day, we won't identify them any further. Make sure you read through to the line at the end about Ugg boots. You can't make this stuff up.

We returned from Iran last week where we drove throughout the north-western region from Tehran and spent another week in Tehran itself. Rather than visiting another ten mosques, Armenian Orthodox churches were on the agenda (St. Stephanos Church close to the Azerbaijan border, a church in the Armenian Quarter in Tabriz, and the Black Church near the Turkish Border). All are highly recommended! Although, we did visit the Blue Mosque in Tabriz, which had to be visited, and was absolutely worth it. We also went to Kandovan, where Iran's 'cave dwellers' live in hollowed-out 'boulders' converted into houses, stalls and even a hotel.

Unlike our previous trips in Iran, we did have two run-ins with the government. Firstly en-route to Babak Castle north of Tabriz, where we were pulled over by police in a small town, escorted to the station and made to wait whilst a slick representative of the 'foreigner's police force' checked our permit with his superiors. Upon deciding that our permit wasn't valid for anything but Tabriz, and disregarding the fact that we only got the permit as a precaution despite not needing one for northern Iran at all, he ordered us to turn around and make our way back to Tabriz. We attempted to take a different route to the Castle, but unfortunately he'd quite predicted this and followed us until we were a fair distance on our way back to Tabriz. It was definitely a disappointment!

Our second adventure was in Tehran where we saw the moral police for the first time in the Northern area of Tehran on our way to a shopping mall with Western-style clothes. The police were scanning passers-by vigorously as they entered and exitted the mall. When we sat at the cafe inside, two policemen came with their walkie-talkies and called over their superior, who exchanged some strong words with the waiters and in the end left two of his men behind to stand closely by our table until we left. We ran into them again on our way to the bazaar around the corner, were warned by two western-dressed Northern Tehrani girls and decided to duck into an alley leading to the bazaar instead of continuing down the main road. One of our group was the culprit — she was wearing three-quarter pants. It seems that the regime has tightened its control over the population, but it was interesting to hear of two cases where the police were targeted in Tehran whilst trying the arrest girls for improper hijab. The first was attacked as he tried to arrest a girl a few months ago, and a second a few weeks later was warned by those surrounding the girl as he tried to do the same. He wisely decided to let her go.

The latest measure against improper hijab in Tehran has ensured the banning of Ugg boots as alluring and immoral footwear and is a constant joke amongst Tehranis.