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Fri 2 Jul 2010 04:48 PM

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Iran’s Bank Melli to expand women-only branch network

'In these branches, the aim is not sex segregation but respect for women' - director.

Iran’s government-owned Bank Melli will expand its network of women-only branches to all of the country’s provincial capitals.

“In these branches, the aim is not sex segregation but respect for women,” the state-run Fars news agency on Friday cited the bank’s director, Mahmoud-Reza Khavari, as saying. The outlets will be managed and staffed solely by women.

Bank Melli opened Iran’s first women-only bank branch in Mashhad on June 7, saying it wanted to help preserve their “virtue.” Another branch will soon open in the central city of Isfahan, and the bank will have outlets for women in the capitals of all 30 provinces by the end of the current Iranian year on March 20, Khavari said.

Iran has set aside $1.5 billion to promote “moral conduct,” including enforcement of its dress code for women, “to solve the cultural and social ills” in society, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar said on May 10. His comments followed the introduction of a code of conduct at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences that bans loud laughter, nail polish, high heels and immodest clothing for women and men.

Since the revolution that brought Shiite Muslim religious leaders to power three decades ago, women in Iran have been required to cover their hair with scarves, obscure the shape of the body with loose-fitting coats, and are segregated from men in some public places, including Tehran’s buses.

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