On February 3, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei participated in a coming-of-age ceremony—known as taklif—for hundreds of schoolgirls. “You are now young girls with responsibilities, and you can have an influence on your family, in your school environment, and when you are playing with your friends,” Khamenei said. “You can show others to the straight path and guide them, which is a responsibility that all of us have.”
The government’s publicity about the ceremony coincided with its ruthless crackdown on nationwide protests over the very issue—mandatory hijab—celebrated by Khamenei at the taqlif. The protests were inspired and led by Iranian women after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained in mid-September for improper hijab. At schools, on university campuses, and in public squares, teenagers and young women removed their scarves and burned them in public bonfires. Their campaign—“Woman, Life, Freedom”—rejected the law on hijab, demanded more personal freedoms, and called for “death to the dictator,” a reference to Khamenei.
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In Shiite Islam, the taklif ritual marks the age of puberty – nine for girls and 15 for boys – at which they are required to observe religious obligations, such as praying, fasting and modest dress. At taklif ceremonies, clerics stress the importance of wearing hijab. Girls are sometimes given their first chador, a full-length body covering. Khamenei has long promoted strict adherence to the mandatory dress code. “Modest clothing is one of the preconditions for preventing corruption,” he said in 2013.
In January 2023, Khamenei suggested that women who violated the law on modest dress should not be considered heretics or traitors. “Women who do not have full hijab should not be considered as people outside of religion or against the Islamic Revolution,” he said after four months of protests. Yet days later, he appointed a new national police chief, Brigadier General Ahmadreza Radan, a hardliner notorious for strictly enforcing the Islamic dress code. The following are photos from the taklif ceremony.
The schoolgirls wore pink masks and chadors with floral patterns.
Khamenei led prayers at the ceremony. He appeared to be the only man in the room.
The five girls who escorted Khamenei carried photos of martyrs of the Islamic Republic.