Iranian president’s wife: Prison time for hijab law violations is ‘out of respect for women’

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(LONDON) — The wife of the president of Iran defended a law passed this week designed to impose harsher sentences on women who do not wear hijabs in public, comparing the rules to “dress codes everywhere” in an interview with ABC’s “This Week.”

You can see Martha Raddatz’s full interview with Jamileh Alamolhoda on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday at 9 a.m. EDT.

Raddatz asked Alamolhoda about the subject, but the Iranian president’s wife did not directly answer when asked about what the punishment for noncompliance should be.

“What do you think should happen to women who choose not to wear a hijab?” Raddatz asked.

“It is out of respect for women,” Alamolhoda said. “It is natural in any country. There may be differences of opinion and viewpoints about dress codes. It comes back to their tastes, how they choose to live their lives and their social rights.”

Alamolhoda drew comparisons between Iranian women facing a decade in prison for refusing to wear the religious symbol and workplace dress codes.

“You have dress codes everywhere, even here in university environments, in schools and everywhere else. And I need to tell you that hijab was a tradition, was a religiously mandated tradition, accepted widely. And now for years, it has been turned into a law. And breaking of the law, trampling upon any laws, just like in any country, comes with its own set of punishments,” she said.

“What do you think the punishment should be?” Raddatz pressed further. “Because there are women who believe it is repressive. While they respect those who choose to wear the hijab, they don’t want to be forced to wear the hijab. What do you think the punishment should be?”

“I do not specialize in law,” the president’s wife responded. “So I cannot ask you — answer you on a professional level, but punishments are equally dispensed to any breaking of the law throughout many countries.”

The public hijab requirement has faced pushback in the form of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” movement in which many women refuse to wear their hijabs in public.

“I feel that our mere presence on the streets is an act of resistance. Practicing everyday life as we want is a part of our revolution,” Ava, a Tehran-based musician in her mid-20’s, told ABC News earlier this year on condition of anonymity so she could speak freely about the movement.

At least 551 protesters, including 68 children and 49 women, have been killed since the start of the “Woman, Life, Freedom” protests, according to Iran Human Rights.

Raddatz sat down with Alamolhoda just a day after her husband delivered a fiery speech at the United Nations General Assembly and a year after massive protests erupted in the country after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in morality police custody following an alleged violation of Iran’s hijab law.

ABC News’ Somayeh Malekian contributed to this report.

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