After protests, Iran disbands its morality police

After more than two months of protests sparked by the detention of Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women, Iran has disbanded its morality police.

However, official television refuted rumors that the morality police had been disbanded.

Since the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish descent on September 16, three days after her arrest by the Tehran morality police, a wave of women-led protests, branded “riots” by the authorities, has swept Iran.

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Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri quoted the ISNA news agency as saying, “Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary” and have been eliminated.

According to the article, he remarked at a ministerial conference in response to a participant who inquired “why the morality police were being disbanded.”

The morality police – technically called the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” – were founded by the authoritarian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to “promote the culture of modesty and hijab.”

In 2006, the units began patrolling. The news of their removal came one day after Montazeri stated that “both parliament and the courts are working [on the matter]” of whether or not the legislation requiring women to cover their heads should be modified.

In broadcast remarks on Saturday, President Ebrahim Raisi stated that Iran’s republican and Islamic roots are constitutionally enshrined, but there are various approaches to executing the constitution.

Four years after the 1979 revolution that ousted the US-backed monarchy and established the Islamic Republic of Iran, the hijab became mandatory.

Fifteen years ago, morality police officers originally issued warnings before arresting women.

The vice squads often consisted of men wearing green uniforms and women wearing black chadors covering the head and upper body.

The role of the units has developed but has always been controversial, even among presidential contenders.

Under the moderate former president Hassan Rouhani, clothing conventions gradually shifted when it became customary for women to wear tight trousers and colorful headscarves.

His successor, the ultraconservative Raisi, called for the deployment of “all governmental institutions to execute the headscarf law” in July of this year.

At the time, Raisi asserted that “the enemies of Iran and Islam have targeted the cultural and religious values of society through the growth of corruption.”

Despite this, many women continued to break the regulations, slipping their headscarves onto their shoulders and donning tight-fitting jeans, particularly in big metropolitan areas.