Several media reports have claimed that Iran’s strict morality police has been disbanded by the Iranian authorities amid the nationwide anti-hijab protests.
Reports claimed that the move came after more than two and a half months of protests that erupted after the death of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after being brutally beaten in police custody, for allegedly not obeying the dress code for women in Iran.
Citing Iranian media reports, the New York Times has said that Iranian government’s Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri urged in a meeting with officials on Saturday to scrap the morality police law in the country, saying that it will help to end the protests.
The reports claim that Montazeri urged that the country needs to reconsider the law that forces women to wear hijab in public places.
The New York Times further said that the morality police are overseen by Iranian police, not the attorney general, and there were suggestions on Sunday that the government was not taking his comments seriously. Speaking with the media, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who is in Serbia, did not confirm Montazeri’s suggestions.
Neither government officials nor ministers from the Ebrahim Raisi government have made any statement regarding the abolishment of the law. The government, however, is not denying the reports of the abolishment of the morality police.
Meanwhile, many residents, journalists and rights groups have denied such reports and said that information about the abolishment of the morality police was not entirely true.
“It’s disinformation that Islamic Republic of Iran has abolished its morality police. It’s a tactic to stop the uprising. Protesters are not facing guns and bullets to abolish morality police or forced hijab. They want to end Islamic regime,” wrote Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad on Twitter.
Hannah Neumann, a German politician and member of the European Parliament, also dismissed such reports and said that it’s a PR stunt by the Iranian government to end the protests. Iranian human rights lawyer Shadi Sadr said that the news of abolishment of the morality police is a tactic of the government to distract the mass demonstration. She said that scrapping the morality police cannot be big news as hijab is still compulsory and enforced by other means such as expulsion from university or school. She further warned the Iranian government that the protests which started with the murder of Mahsa Amini by the morality police “won’t rest until the regime is gone”.
“The bottom line is that the protests are now about challenging the entirety of the system, and the extreme gender discriminatory laws that mandate compulsory hijab and restrictions on women’s rights to marriage, divorce, custody and inheritance are all still in place,” said Iranian activist and lawyer Gissou Nia.
Raisi Hails Iran’s Islamic Republic
Meanwhile, amid the widespread anti-government protests, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has defended the current ruling system and claimed that Iran guarantees rights and freedoms. “Iran has the most progressive constitution in the world” because it marries “ideals with democracy”, Raisi said in a speech to parliamentarians, quoting an unidentified African lawyer he said he met several years ago.
“The constitution guarantees the (existence) of the Islamic system,” he said, adding that it also “guarantees fundamental rights and legitimate freedoms”.
Over 200 Killed
It has been more than two months since protests filled the streets of Iranian cities, with cries like “Death of Khamenei”, “freedom” and “Basij Sepah – you are our ISIS” echoing across them. Some unthinkable things have happened in recent days in Iran for the first time since the 1979 revolution as protesters, mostly college students and young Iranians, have taken the law into their hands and posed a direct threat to Iran’s theocratic government.
The current anti-government protests have been called with different names such as the anti-hijab movement, protest against Khamenei rules, Mhasa Amini protest, and many more. Since the protests erupted, young women can be seen cutting off their hair, and taking off their headscarves and burning them on the streets. Young students in colleges and schools can also be seen yelling at the teachers and protesting against the hijab rule in the country.
Calling the current anti-government protests “rioters” and “separatists”, the Iranian security forces have claimed that more than 200 protesters have been killed in the last two and a half months. A general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that more than 300 people had lost their lives in clashes between police and protesters.
Norway-based Iranian Human Rights group claimed that around 450 people have been killed since protests started against the Raisi regime. Last week, UN rights chief Volker Turk said that 14,000 people, including children, had been arrested in the police’s crackdown against protesters.
What Are Morality Police?
The Iranian government had introduced the morality police, also known as the Islamic guidance patrol in 2006, during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime. The motive of the act, which was brought to stop the influence of Western culture in the country, was ultimately to enforce a strict Islamic dress code for women. The law requires women to cover their bodies in long, loose clothing, and their hair with a head scarf or hijab.
Both women and men are the officials of Iran’s morality police patrolling streets and parks to keep an eye on the forced dress code of women. The morality police can detain any woman in Iran if they find them wearing an “inappropriate” dress.