Iran has reportedly scrapped its “morality police” amid ongoing protests triggered by a woman’s arrest for alleged violations of the country’s strict female dress code.
The women-led protests have swept Iran since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died Sept. 16 — three days after the morality police booked her in Tehran.
“Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary” and have been abolished, Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted saying, according to the ISNA news agency.
His comment came at a religious conference where he responded to a participant who asked “why the morality police were being shut down”, the report said.
There was no confirmation of the move from the Interior Ministry — which is in charge of the morality police. Iranian state media said the public prosecutor was not responsible for overseeing the force.
The morality police — known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” — were established in 2006 by hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “spread the culture of modesty” and enforce rules requiring woman to wear “hijab” head coverings.
The announcement of the squad’s abolition came a day after Montazeri said “both parliament and the judiciary are working” on whether to continue requiring women to cover their heads.
The hijab became mandatory four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed Shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Morality cops initially issued warnings before starting to crack down and arrest women under former president Ahmadinejad.
The vice squads were usually made up of men in green uniforms and women clad in black chadors, garments that cover their heads and upper bodies. The role of the units evolved, but has always been controversial even among candidates running for the presidency.
Clothing norms gradually changed, especially under former moderate president Hassan Rouhani, when it became commonplace to see women in tight jeans with loose, colorful headscarves.
In July this year his successor, the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, called for the mobilization of “all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law.”
In spite of this, many women continued to bend the rules, letting their headscarves slip onto their shoulders or wearing tight-fitting pants, especially in major cities and towns.
Yet top officials have repeatedly said Tehran would not change the hijab policy.
Protesters on Sunday called for a three-day strike, stepping up pressure after reports that the morality police had been disbanded.
Hundreds of people have been killed in the unrest so far. The activist HRANA news agency said 470 protesters had been killed as of Saturday, including 64 minors. Some 18,210 demonstrators were arrested and 61 members of the security forces were killed, the group said.
With Post wires