A religious activist looks on while attending the 25th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran
Veiled women in Iran (Reuters) Reuters

An Iranian cleric has claimed he was beaten by two women outside a mosque after he warned one of them to cover up.

Hojatoleslam (a middle ranking cleric) Ali Beheshti told the semi-official Mehr news agency that he advised one of the women, whom he believed was not properly dressed, to cover her eyes.

"She responded to me by saying: 'You [should] close your eyes," the cleric said, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Ali Beheshti, a leading religious figure in the city of Shahrmirzad, repeated the warning to the woman, saying their attire did not follow the Islamic dress code that became compulsory after the 1979 revolution.

"Not only didn't she not cover herself up but she also insulted me. I asked her not to insult me any more but she started shouting and threatening me," Beheshti said.

"She pushed me and I fell to the ground on my back. From that point on, I don't know what happened. I was just feeling the kicks of the women who were beating me up."

The cleric was taken to hospital for three days following the attack. He said he did not file a lawsuit against the women despite suffering what he said were the worst days of his life.

The judiciary is reviewing the incident and has classified it as a public beating.

It was not the first time Iranian clerics have been allegedly beaten for ordering women to dress "appropriately".

Mehr said that even a representative of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, named Kheirandish, had been beaten up.

"Officially, the hijab is promoted as protection for women against evil in society," explained Golnaz Esfandiari, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Washington correspondent. "For many women, however, the hijab feels like a burden, an insult, a limitation of their freedom and an attempt to keep them under control."