Iranian ‘morality police’ disbanded after massive anti-hijab protests

Iran has scrapped its morality police units after more than two months of protests


Iran has scrapped its morality police after more than two months of protests over the arrest of Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women, local media said on Sunday.

Women-led protests, labeled “riots” by authorities, have engulfed Iran since the 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish descent died on September 16, three days after her arrest by vice squad in Tehran.

“The morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary” and have been abolished, Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri told ISNA news agency.

His comment came at a religious conference where he was responding to an attendee who asked “why the vice squad was shut down,” the report said.

The morality police – formally known as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” – was created under hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to spread “the culture of modesty and hijab”, the compulsory female head covering.

The units started patrols in 2006.

The announcement of their abolition came a day after Montazeri said that “both parliament and the judiciary are working (on the issue)” whether the law requiring women to cover their heads should be changed.

President Ebrahim Raisi said in televised commentary on Saturday that Iran’s republican and Islamist foundations are constitutionally entrenched “but there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible.”

The hijab became mandatory four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Morality police officers initially issued warnings before beginning crackdowns and arrests of women 15 years ago.

The vice squad usually consisted of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors, garments that covered their heads and upper bodies.

The role of the units has evolved, but has always been controversial, even among candidates running for president.

Dress standards gradually changed, especially under former moderate President Hassan Rouhani, when it became commonplace to see women in tight jeans with loose, colorful headscarves.

But in July this year, his successor, the ultra-conservative Raisi, called for the mobilization of “all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law”.

At the time, Raisi charged that “the enemies of Iran and Islam have targeted the cultural and religious values ​​of society by spreading corruption”.

Despite this, many women continued to bend the rules by slipping their headscarves over their shoulders or wearing tight trousers, especially in large cities and towns.

Iran’s regional rival, Saudi Arabia, also deployed the morality police to enforce female dress codes and other codes of conduct. Since 2016, power there has been sidelined in an attempt by the Sunni Muslim kingdom to shake off its austere image.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)

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