A member of the Iranian parliament has told local media the government plans to impose new punishments on women who do not wear a hijab in public, with individuals who refuse to comply after two warnings possibly having their bank accounts frozen.
Hossein Jalali is a member of the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Consultative Assembly. He told Iranian media on Dec. 6 that “unveiled persons” would be sent an SMS urging them to respect the law and wear a hijab before entering a “warning phase” and finally having their bank account frozen.
"In the third stage, the bank account of the unveiled person may be frozen."
Similar actions taken by governments in the past have seen protestors and dissidents turn to cryptocurrencies to continue accessing financial instruments.
Jalali did not detail what the “warning stage” entailed, but he suggested there should not be “morality police” enforcing compliance with the law. Other key figures have noted that authorities may use cameras with artificial intelligence to identify offenders.
There have been ongoing protests in Iran since Sept. 17, when the morality police arrested an Iranian woman named Mahsa Amini for not wearing a hijab. She later died under suspicious circumstances at a hospital in Tehran.
Many women are now setting fire to their hijab or refusing to wear them amid a broader push to force the government to back down on its compulsory hijab requirements.
The threat to freeze the bank accounts of protestors parallels events in Canada earlier this year, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 15, enabling regulators to freeze the bank accounts of people partaking in the “Freedom Convoy” protests.
Some convoy protestors turned to crypto to fund the movement after the fundraising platform GoFundMe removed the campaign from its website.
Iran, which has been using crypto in international trade deals since Aug. 9, has been developing its own central bank digital currency (CBDC) called the crypto rial.
The threat from Iranian officials to freeze bank accounts to enforce compliance again highlights the risks of CBDCs and the transition to cashless economies. On Dec. 6, Nigeria banned ATM withdrawals of more than $45 daily to force the population to use its unpopular CBDC. Transactions of decentralized cryptocurrencies, by contrast, are similar to cash in that it is much more difficult for government officials to censor them.
Wall Street Silver, a CBDC critic and the host of a popular YouTube channel of the same name, noted in a Dec. 6 tweet that governments having absolute power over your money is a scary idea.