Scepticism over scrapping of Iran’s ‘morality police’

It has taken almost three months of protests and the deaths of more than 200 people – including 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested for allegedly failing to wear her hijab properly.

An Iranian woman walks in the street on a rainy day in the capital Tehran, on the day Iran has said it has scrapped its morality police after more than two months of protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly violating the country's strict female dress code.
An Iranian woman walks in the street on a rainy day in the capital Tehran, on the day Iran has said it has scrapped its morality police after more than two months of protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly violating the country's strict female dress code.

However, Iranian reformists should now be rejoicing at the news that Iran has disbanded its morality police – a section of the police force responsible for ensuring modesty and propriety.

Yet, that is not the case. Protesters and campaigners, who have been fighting against Iran’s strict hijab laws since Ms Amini’s death in September, claim that the apparent reforms taking place in Iran are bogus. They say that the public announcement is timed to prevent a mass call for a nationwide protest in mid-December.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, who has been Attorney General since 2016, announced in response to a direct question on Sunday morning that the morality police had been been “shut down from where they were set up”. His comments come just days after he said he was reviewing the law that requires women to cover their heads, describing it as a “phenomenon that hurts everyone's heart”.

People – mainly women – who broke the code could be arrested by the morality police and taken to “re-education centres” – the first of which was set up in 2019 – where they are usually given classes about Islam and the importance of the hijab, and then forced to sign a pledge to abide by the state’s clothing regulations before being released.

Iranian broadcaster Sima Sabet took to social media to express her scepticism.

"Morality police hasn’t been abolished in Iran,” she wrote. “This is a lie to deceive protester and to divide them just before nationwide calls for protests in the next coming days.”

Indeed, Mr Montazeri’s sudden quest for reform is somewhat unexpected.

The lawyer played a key role in detaining and prosecuting protesters and overseeing provincial prosecutors during the nationwide protests in November 2019. He was quoted as saying accused the protesters of being led by “America, Saudi Arabia and Israel” – a sentiment that has been echoed by the authorities in relation to the current round of protests.

Whether or not the reforms are properly implemented will undoubtedly become more clear over the course of the next month.