Iran suspends morality police. What does it mean?

The Islamic escort patrol may be gone for the time being after months of protests, but the mandatory hijab is not.

Tehran, Iran – According to the country’s attorney general, the morality police in Iran are closed, at least for now. But what does that mean?

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted by local media on Saturday as saying that the morality police “has no connection with the judiciary and was shut down by the same place from which it was launched in the past”.

The announcement was made in the third month of protests that erupted after the death in police custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by Tehran’s morality police for alleged non-compliance with Iran’s dress code.

What is the morality police?

  • Known as “Gasht-e Ershad,” or Islamic Escort Patrol, today’s morality police was established more than 15 years ago during the reign of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There had been other forms of patrols before.
  • The units, usually made up of several men and women, used white police vans with dark green stripes to patrol the streets or park where pedestrians or younger people often congregate.
  • The officers would enforce the country’s dress code, which requires women to cover their hair and wear loose-fitting clothing. For violations, they would issue verbal warnings or detain women and take them to “re-education centers.”

What does the suspension entail?

  • The Attorney General has said the force is “closed” and the vans have not been seen in public recently. But no such confirmation has come from police officials, and reports of Montazeri’s remarks made no mention of an indefinite closure.
  • As the protests continue, many women are now walking the streets of cities across Iran, especially in Tehran, without head coverings.
  • During the protests, women have been filmed removing and burning their headscarves, as “woman, life, freedom” has become a rallying cry and a way of showing solidarity both inside and outside Iran.
  • It is unclear whether officials will continue to tolerate the current situation or whether they will use other methods to enforce the dress code.

Will the law change?

  • Let’s not forget that the morality police was just one highly visible tool to implement the compulsory hijab.
  • Compliance with dress standards became a legal requirement four years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It spawned the current theocratic establishment and overthrew a United States-backed monarchy.
  • No senior official has seriously signaled publicly that a major change in hijab laws could be made any time soon. Top authorities over the years have emphasized that they view the issue as a “red line”.
  • Montazeri had said last week that both parliament and the judiciary are “working on and studying the issue of the hijab”, pointing out that the judiciary is not in favor of closing the “moral security police” indefinitely.
  • President Ebrahim Raisi has said several times since September that “flexibility” could possibly be shown in the implementation of the law, but he has not elaborated. Other officials have suggested less confrontational but still controversial methods, such as using artificial intelligence and cameras to fine alleged offenders.

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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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