Bank Melli Opens Iran’s First Women-Only Branch, Cites ‘Virtue’
Business Week / Ali Sheikholeslami

June 7 (Bloomberg) -- Iran’s state-owned Bank Melli opened the first bank branch in the country that will exclusively serve women, to safeguard their “virtue,” according to the bank’s director.

The branch of Iran’s biggest bank was opened today in the northeastern city of Mashhad, according to the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency. The city, 75 kilometers (46 miles) from the border with Afghanistan, is home to the shrine of the eighth Shiite Muslim imam, Reza.

The aim is “to protect women’s virtue in the social sphere,” Mahmoud-Reza Khavari, Tehran-based Bank Melli’s managing director, was cited as saying by IRNA. “Facilitating banking and financial services to the economy’s influential women is one of the reasons for opening this branch,” he 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.

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