According to local media, Iran has dissolved its morality police after more than two months of protests over Mahsa Amini’s arrest for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
Since the 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin died in custody on September 16, three days after she was arrested by the morality police in Tehran, women have led protests, dubbed “riots” by the authorities.
As a result, demonstrators have burned their hijab head coverings and shouted anti-government slogans, and a growing number of women have refused to wear the hijab since Amini died.
ISNA news agency quoted Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as saying: “Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary and have been abolished.”
At a religious conference, he responded to a participant who asked “why the morality police were being shut down”.
There has been some kind of official monitoring of Iran’s strict dress code since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the US-backed monarchy.
The Gasht-e Ershad, or “Guidance Patrol”, was created under hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “spread the culture of modesty and hijab”.
Ebrahim Raisi, the president of Iran’s Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, set up the units.
Since 2006, they have been patrolling to enforce the dress code, which also prohibits shorts, ripped jeans, and other immodest clothing.
In addition to the abolition of the units, Montazeri said “both parliament and the judiciary are working” on changing the law requiring women to cover their heads.
According to Raisi, Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations are constitutionally entrenched “but there are flexible ways to implement the constitution”.
Corruption is spreading
In 1983, the hijab became mandatory.
Initially, morality police officers issued warnings before cracking down and arresting women 15 years ago.
Usually, the squads consisted of men in green uniforms and women wearing black chadors, which covered their heads and upper bodies.
Although the role of the units has evolved, they have always been controversial, even among presidential candidates.
It became more commonplace to see women wearing tight jeans and colourful headscarves under former moderate president Hassan Rouhani.
In July, however, his successor, the ultra-conservative Raisi, called for all state institutions to enforce the headscarf law.
“The enemies of Iran and Islam have spread corruption to target the cultural and religious values of society,” Raisi said at the time.
Similarly, Saudi Arabia employs morality police to enforce female dress codes and other rules of behavior. As part of a push by the Sunni Muslim kingdom to shake off its austere image, the force has been sidelined since 2016.
Reformist party Union of Islamic Iran People Party called for rescinding the hijab law in September.
According to the party, which was founded by relatives of former reformist president Mohammad Khatami, authorities should “prepare the legal elements for abolition of the hijab law”.
It also called on the Islamic republic to “officially announce the end of the activities of the morality police” and “allow peaceful demonstrations” on Saturday.
Among those accused of fomenting the street protests are the United States and its allies, including Britain and Israel.
In the unrest, more than 300 people have been killed, including dozens of members of the security forces.
In the ongoing nationwide protests, at least 448 people have been killed by security forces, according to Iran Human Rights, an Oslo-based non-government organization.
Iranian actors and footballers have been arrested in large numbers.
Hengameh Ghaziani, who was detained last month, was one of them. Her head covering had been removed in a video she posted on Instagram. Iranian news agencies reported that she was later released on bail.
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