February 3, 2023
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Protests force Abolition of morality police in Iran

Iran has abolished its controversial morality police units after more than two months of protests.

The country witnessed its biggest uprising in decades after the death of Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman from the north-western city of Saqez, who was said to have been arrested by the morality police on September 13 for not wearing a proper hijab.

The 22-year-old Amini died three days after her arrest and detention, and during her funeral, protests broke out.

She was said to have fallen into a coma shortly after collapsing at a detention centre before she died.

The police denied reports that the deceased was mistreated and said she suffered a “sudden heart failure” but her family insisted she was in good health.

Her death sparked criticisms from the international community, including the United Nations and other human rights organisations.

Some of the protests saw women burning their headscarves in a defiant act of resistance against the Islamic country’s strict dress code.

The Iranian government took measures, including restricting access to Whatsapp and Instagram and other internet services to control the protests.

Two weeks ago, in a surprise move, Iran players refused to sing their national anthem before the start of their World Cup match against England at the Khalifa International Stadium.

In solidarity with the players, the fans also booed their anthem.

In a statement on Saturday, Mohammad Montazeri, Iran’s attorney-general, said the morality police would be abolished as they “have nothing to do with the judiciary,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

“Of course, the judiciary continues to monitor behavioural actions,” he added.

However, it is unclear whether the force will be set up again in a different context or under a different name.

Morality Police

“Gasht-e-Ershad,” which translates as “guidance patrols” and is widely known as the “morality police,” were a unit of Iran’s police force established under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

They were tasked with enforcing the laws on Islamic dress codes in public and began patrolling the streets in 2006.

According to Iranian law, all women above puberty must wear a head covering and “decent” clothing in public, although the exact age is not clearly defined.

There are also no clear guidelines or details on what types of clothing qualify as inappropriate, leaving room for personal interpretation and sparking accusations that the “morality” enforcers inexcusably detain women.

Following Amini’s death, hundreds of women have begun to speak up against compulsory hijab-wearing online. Even some conservative figures, including members of parliament, have been seen criticising the law and the police force, saying that it has had a negative impact on public attitudes toward the hijab and religion in general.

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