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Has the Activity of Iran’s Morality Police Ceased?

By: Vaishnavi Peyyety, Red & Black Current Events Staff Writer

Irans's Morality police stand guard. (Photo Courtesy Iran Morality Police)
JAN. 22- For decades, many Iranian women have been subject to the anger of the Islamic Republic’s morality enforcers. Take Mahsa Amini, for instance, a woman who was dragged from the streets of Tehram by the morality police and given lessons on modesty at a “re-education center.” Amini was presumed dead days after the incident.

Who are the morality police you may ask? This group of law enforcement has access to power, weaponry, detention centers, and “re-education centers.” At these facilities, women and (occasionally) men are treated like criminals and held for not complying to state modesty rules. They are “re-educated” on Islam and the importance of the hijab. They are also forced to pledge to abide by the clothing regulations of the state.

According to Hadi Ghaemi, an executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, these centers have “no basis in any law” and since 2019 have “arbitrarily detained countless women under the pretense of not complying with the state’s forced hijab.” Even before the current Islamic Republic, Iran has governed how women should dress. In 1936, all veils and headscarves were banned, a rule aimed at modernizing the country. In 1979, the Islamic regime took over and made the hijab mandatory. This rule was officially written into law in 1983. In essence, the morality police are responsible for ensuring these rules are followed.

When anti-hijab social movements rose, proponents were arrested and persecuted. Nevertheless, citizens and leadership continue to debate the issue of the compulsory hijab. In fact, a research study by MDPI in 2018 indicated that the number of people who believe in the mandatory hijab has decreased. Some believe that instead of forceful implementation of Islamic beliefs, leadership should educate on Islamic values. But what would this education entail?

More recently, a protest involving thousands across Iran has been brought to light this issue. Social media footage shows an Iranian woman cutting her hair, chanting “death to the dictator.” Some were heard saying “We are children of war, come on and fight, we’ll fight back.”
“We are children of war, come on and fight, we’ll fight back.” -chants of Iranian protestors
Ghaemi believes people are protesting for justice, women’s rights, civil and human rights, and a life without religious dictatorship. Will this movement continue, or will the state eliminate all hope for Iranian citizens? Tara Kangarlou, an Iranian woman who grew up surrounded by the morality police, wrote a book titled The Heartbeat of Iran. She shared how “Growing up as a teenager, we would make sure we avoided streets that we knew the morality police vans would be parked on during the weekend.” Iranians have adapted to the oppressive system, but most citizens are “fed up” with the current situation.
“Growing up as a teenager, we would make sure we avoided streets that we knew the morality police vans would be parked on during the weekend.” - Kangarlou

Last month, an Iranian official stated that the country’s morality police have been shut down. However, pushback from social media activists, some believing this was a “PR stunt,” has brought attention back to protestors and this seemingly never-ending fight. At times, regimes make empty, false promises to subdue unrest. Therefore, experts have encouraged people to stay cautious about the supposed eradication of morality police. Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri stated the morality police had been abolished. In fact, Iranian officials stated the hijab law is “under review” though state media activists believe this to be untrue. The final decision of dismantling the morality police must be made by the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution led by President Ebrahim Raisi.

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