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Confusion over Iran’s religious police as women drop hijab

“We are working quickly on the problem of hijab and we are doing our best to come up with a thoughtful solution to this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” he said without giving details.

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But late on Sunday, Arabic-language state speech Al-Alam released a report suggesting that Montazeri’s comments had been misunderstood. The report said the religious police had no ties to the judiciary, to which Montazeri belongs. It underlined that no official has confirmed the closure of the religious police.

It also pointed to Montazeri’s further statement that “the judicial branch will continue its monitoring of behavioral responses at the community level.”

The hard-line news website SNN.ir said the morality police “has not been ended and it has not been shut down”.

But it added that “the mechanism might change, a point that was under discussion before the riots”.

The location is close to the Basij, the feared paramilitary force under the powerful Revolutionary Guards, dedicated to protecting Iran’s cleric-led system.

The status of the force could not be confirmed. Officials have avoided comment. When asked by journalists in Belgrade about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian did not immediately answer.

Yet fewer morality police officers have been seen in Iranian cities for weeks.

Throughout Tehran, it has become common to see women walking the streets of the city without wearing the hijab, especially in wealthier areas, but also to a lesser extent in more traditional neighborhoods.

Unveiled women sometimes walk past anti-riot police and Basiji troops.

The anti-government demonstrations show little sign of stopping, despite a violent crackdown that left at least 471 people dead, according to human rights groups. More than 18,200 people have been arrested, according to Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that monitors the demonstrations.

Protesters say they are tired of decades of social and political repression, including the dress code. Women have played a leading role in protests by removing their headscarves.

Ali Alfoneh, a senior fellow at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, said an informal relaxation of the hijab law could be the government’s current policy.

″⁣For the time being, instead of amending the law on hijab, the Islamic Republic will most likely not enforce the law to ease tension with society,″⁣ Alfoneh said.

Meanwhile, residents said security in the Grand Bazaar had been increased on Monday, the first day of the strike.

There have been two previous strikes in the Bazaar in solidarity with protesters. A shop owner open Monday said he had been warned by authorities not to join the strike after stopping during a previous strike.

Others said they just can’t afford to participate.

“I cannot close my shop, although I support the cause of the protests,” said the owner of a headscarf shop on condition of anonymity for his safety.

AP

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Merry

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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