Iran: morality police dissolved, a gesture towards the demonstrators

Iran has announced the abolition of the morality police responsible for the arrest of the young Mahsa Amini, whose death in custody has provoked a wave of protest in Iran which has lasted for almost three months.

The announcement, seen as a gesture towards protesters, came after authorities decided on Saturday to revise a 1983 law on compulsory veiling in Iran, imposed four years after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

It was the morality police who arrested Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurd, in Tehran on September 13, accusing her of not respecting the strict dress code in the Islamic Republic, which requires women to wear the veil in audience.

His death was announced three days later. Activists and her family say Mahsa Amini died after being beaten, but authorities have linked her death to health issues, which her parents have denied.

Her death sparked a wave of demonstrations during which women, the spearhead of the protest, took off and burned their headscarves, shouting “Woman, life, freedom”.

Despite the repression that left hundreds dead, the protest movement continues.

“The morality police (…) have been abolished by those who created it,” Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said on Saturday evening, quoted by the Isna news agency on Sunday.

This police force, known as Gasht-e Ershad (orientation patrols), was created under ultra-conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), to “spread the culture of decency and hijab”.

Made up of men in green uniforms and women wearing the black chador which covers the head and upper body, this unit began its patrols in 2006 with the aim of enforcing the strict dress code in the Islamic Republic which also prohibits women to wear tight pants or shorts. Women violating the code risked being taken away.

Gasht-e Ershad was created at the time by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, now led by ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi, elected in 2021.

In July, Mr. Raisi even called for the mobilization of “all institutions to strengthen the law on the veil”, declaring that “the enemies of Iran and Islam wanted to undermine the cultural and religious values ​​of society “.

Nevertheless, under the tenure of his moderate predecessor Hassan Rohani, one could come across women in tight jeans wearing colorful veils.

On Saturday, the same prosecutor, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, announced that “Parliament and the judiciary were working” on the issue of compulsory veiling, without specifying what could be changed in the law.

This is an ultra-sensitive issue in Iran, on which two camps clash: that of the conservatives who brace themselves on the 1983 law and that of the progressives who want to give women the right to choose wear it or not.

According to the law in force since 1983, Iranian and foreign women, regardless of their religion, must wear a veil and loose clothing in public.

Since the death of Mahsa Amini and the demonstrations that followed, a growing number of women are uncovering their heads, especially in the upscale north of Tehran.

On September 24, a week after the protests began, Iran’s main reform party urged the state to rescind the veil requirement.

The Iranian authorities consider the demonstrations as “riots” and accuse foreign forces of being behind this movement to destabilize the country.

According to a latest report provided by Iranian General Amirali Hajizadeh of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, there have been more than 300 deaths in protests since September 16.

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