In Brief

Dog owners in Iran could be punished with 74 lashes

Pets could be confiscated under a tough new law to combat the 'invasion' of Western culture

Dog lovers in Iran could face physical punishment or a hefty fine for owning or even walking a dog if a new draft bill is passed.

"Walking dogs, trading them or keeping them at home will be punishable by 74 lashes or a fine of 1m to 10m Tomans [£200 to £2,000]," an Iranian newspaper reports.

Hard-line clerics view dog ownership as an "invasion" of Western culture. Under the new law, the animals will be confiscated and may be sent off to zoos, forests or the wilderness, according to Reuters. Certain people will be excempt, including police officers, farmers and hunters.

"Anyone who walks or plays with animals such as dogs or monkeys in public places will damage Islamic culture, as well as the hygiene and peace of others, especially women and children," the draft law states.

Under Islamic tradition, dogs are often considered "unclean", but some Iranians do keep them as pets, particularly in affluent areas where people have been exposed to different cultures.

"Global norms and values capture the heart of people all around the world, and Iran is no exception," said Omid Memarian, a prominent Iranian journalist specialising in human rights. "This is very frightening for Iranian officials, who find themselves in a cultural war with the West and see what they're offering as an 'Islamic lifestyle' failing measurably."

Currently, dog ownership is not explicitly illegal, but it is heavily frowned upon by the authorities and state media routinely  lectures the population on the diseases they spread. In light of this, walking one's dog is often seen as "a symbol of resistance" against the regime, the Guardian reports.

Government authorities regularly round up street dogs in the major cities and exterminate them. Many ordinary Iranians find this practice "offensive and cruel," says Memarian. "It's like the Iranian people and officials live in two different worlds."

It is unclear whether the bill will pass, but the majority conservative parliament is likely to hold similar views to those behind the proposal.

For many people, such measures  "are a firm reminder that the government will brook no disobedience", reports Time magazine.

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