Graphics: Kristina Völk
Iranian dogs and their owners are suffering, largely due to President Donald Trump re-establishing sanctions on Iran’s oil industry. In an attempt to de-westernize society, the conservative government issued a ban on dog walking last week.
Tehran’s police chief, Hossein Rahimi, said that the police are going to take action to contain the spread of the animals “creating fear and anxiety” amongst the population.
Rahimi told the Young Journalists Club News Agency last week, “we have received permission from Tehran Prosecutor’s office, and will take measures against people walking dogs in public spaces, such as parks.”
This “permission” will include the confiscation of dogs and fines for their owners.
The recent development is not the first time the Iranian government has tried to crack down on dog ownership.
In 2010 the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance even went so far as to ban the media from broadcasting any advertisement for pets or pet related products.
The government has attributed its hostile pet policy to Islamic precedent, saying that dogs are viewed as “unclean” in Islam.
There is, however, a different rather unknown thinking about dogs in Islam. It roots in a long history of positive interactions and appreciations between man and dog, that can be attributed to the religion’s very beginnings.
Prophet Muhammad himself allegedly prayed in the presence of dogs. It was also common for the first Muslims to have many dogs. They would depend on them to help out with the large flocks of sheep and goats they kept.
200 years ago, views about dogs began to change. People in the Middle East started to notice a connection between the outbreak of diseases when people came into contact with them.
As a result, in the early 19th century dogs came to be seen both as economically unnecessary and a threat to public health. This created a change in public opinion. The majority of muslim countries now sees dogs as dangerous, disease-ridden and expendable.
Animal protection isn’t a top priority for the Islamic Republic and in many areas, it is common to see ‘hunting parties,’ roaming the streets for stray dogs.
Those who campaign for animal protection see it as a serious matter, saying the Republic is victimising dogs and their owners. “The ban is not only for walking dogs, but also for having them in your car,” said a volunteer at an Iranian animal shelter. “This means no activities for dogs and also making it impossible to go to an animal hospital for medical treatment.”
“Many of them will be taken away from their owners by officials, or let go by their owners”, said the volunteer. “Many dogs will be starved, lost or in the best situation end up in shelters which are not supported by the government.”
There are some trying to change society’s perception of animal protection. Without the support of the authorities and their constant efforts to crack down on dogs and their owners, the volunteers are dependent on donation and the support of animal lovers.
Despite political and religious views, dog ownership is growing in popularity amongst the middle classes in Iran.
Iranian City Student Sanam Mahoozi says that in Tehran more people are choosing to own pets. “The recent ban is a shock to me as I thought that we were moving away from this sort of thing,” she said.
Other countries take a similar stance to dogs, considering them an “unclean” threat to Islam.
In Morocco dogs outside of the upper and middle classes are not welcomed.
Julien Hadenteufel, City student from Morroco, has observed the animosity towards dogs in his country. “They have been chased and street dogs have been shot and killed, although strays are not a dangerous issue,” he says.
In Morocco, officials give the same reason… Dogs are dirty. This reason makes no sense to Julien as he says that “in the Koran they talk about dogs in a very good way, they say they’re a man’s best friend, but apparently there was a change two centuries ago when they (the authorities) realised that dogs bring diseases.” Since then dogs have been treated badly.
Sanam Mahoozi is concerned and upset about this development. “Honestly, I don’t know what to say. I think the ban is bad and that people should be allowed to have pets. I think they simply ran out things to ban.”