In a move met with widespread criticism, Iranian authorities have announced the revival of the controversial “morality police” patrols aimed at enforcing strict dress codes and hijab laws for women in public spaces. The state media reports confirm the return of these patrols after a ten-month suspension, following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested for allegedly violating the dress code in Tehran.
The resumption of these patrols has ignited fierce national protests, prompting public outrage over the perceived infringement on personal freedoms. Islamic hardliners, however, have persistently advocated for the reinstatement of these measures.
Based on Iran’s interpretation of Sharia law, women are obligated to cover their hair with a hijab and wear loose-fitting garments to conceal their figures. The morality police unit’s responsibility is to uphold these regulations and apprehend individuals deemed to be dressed “improperly.”
According to Saeed Montazerolmahdi, a police spokesman quoted by the hardline Tasnim news agency, during the patrols, officers will initially issue warnings to non-compliant women. If their orders are disregarded, legal action may be taken against them.
Tragically, Mahsa Amini, aged 22, lost her life while in custody for allegedly violating the dress code. After her arrest by the morality police in Tehran, she collapsed in a detention center where she was meant to be “educated.” Reports indicated that officers had subjected her to physical abuse, including striking her head with a baton and banging it against a police vehicle.
The news of Mahsa Amini’s fate ignited nationwide fury, culminating in months of violent anti-government protests across Iran. Tragically, nearly 600 protesters, including some who were executed by the state, lost their lives during this period.
In the aftermath of the protests, many women chose to defy the dress code altogether, marking a significant challenge to the ruling clerics in Iran since the 1979 revolution. Social media videos even showcased instances where women were seen in public spaces without hijabs, indicating a growing trend.
The Iranian authorities responded to this defiance by implementing stricter penalties, such as shutting down businesses that failed to comply with hijab laws. However, despite the massive protests, there are still individuals who staunchly support the enforcement of the strict dress code.
While the authorities aim to reintroduce the dress codes, some Iranians remain skeptical about the feasibility of such an endeavor. Ismail, a university student, expressed doubts, stating, “They cannot impose it like before – the number of people who do not obey is too high now.” She added that resorting to violence and force against the public would likely be the authorities’ last option.
Iran has witnessed the presence of various forms of “morality police” since the revolution. The most recent iteration, officially known as the Guidance Patrol (Gasht-e Ershad), commenced operations in 2006. The exact number of personnel involved in these patrols remains unclear, but they possess weapons, operate detention centers, and oversee so-called “re-education centers.”
In response to Iran’s brutal crackdown on protesters, the UK and other Western nations implemented sanctions against the morality police and other high-ranking security officials last year, condemning the violation of human rights and individual freedoms.
The revival of the controversial “morality police” patrols has reignited public outcry in Iran, reflecting a nation divided over the enforcement of strict dress codes and hijab laws.