Violations of the Iranian “moral police” have returned to shake Iranian society after the death of a young woman under torture, after she was detained on the pretext of wearing the veil “the wrong way”, which sparked widespread protests in Tehran, which the Iranian authorities faced with tear gas.
The Iranian young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, died Friday, after falling into a coma after she was arrested, Wednesday, by the morality police in Tehran, according to her family and state television.
Protests erupted in several neighborhoods in Tehran on Friday night, after the death of the young woman was announced, as crowds chanted “Death to the dictator” and “Death to Khamenei”, in reference to the Supreme Leader of Iran, according to videos posted on social media.
Amini’s death comes amid a growing debate inside and outside Iran over the repressive behavior of the “moral police”.
What is the morality police?
Its name in Persian is “Ghashet Irshad”, which means guidance patrols, and it works as the “Hisbah” police for the terrorist organization ISIS, and it is charged with implementing the regime’s strict interpretations of the concept of Islamic morals.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has had various forms of “morality police”, but Ghasht Ershad was established in 2007 and is currently the main agency tasked with enforcing Iran’s Islamic Code of Conduct in public places.
After the Islamic Revolution, the law required all women, regardless of nationality or religious beliefs, to wear a headscarf that covers the head and neck.
The focus of Iran’s morality police is to ensure adherence to the headscarf, which are mandatory rules that require women to cover their hair and bodies and to prevent the use of cosmetics.
The rules it imposes include covering the head as much as possible, and wearing loose clothing, especially in the summer heat, and its procedures also affect men with hairstyles that it considers “Western”.
It has the power to impose fines and the support of Basij
Under Iranian law, morality police officers have the right to charge, impose fines, or even arrest those they believe are violating the “rules.”
Under reforms that are due to come into effect this year, 7,000 secret agents from “Gasht Irshad” will be deployed to report abuse to the police, who will decide whether to take action, according to a BBC report.
The morality police are supported by the Iranian Basij militia, according to the network report, and it is believed that the “Gasht Irshad” group attracts many of its members from the Basij, a hard-line paramilitary unit. It also includes many women.
Former President Hassan Rouhani had expressed his opposition to Ghasht Ershad, but the Iranian constitution gives him little influence over the security forces.
“The religious police are part of the Iranian regime’s tools to suppress the people, especially women, who are the most prominent engine of revolutions in the last two decades,” Ali Rajab, a journalist specializing in Iranian affairs, said in an interview with Al-Hurra.
Rajab points out that, “Since the 2009 elections, which Hossein Mousavi lost, Iranian women have been at the forefront of the protests, and therefore the regime has escalated the use of the religious police, which is more influential, which is another image of ISIS’s Hesba police, and it can be said that the Iranian regime aims to put the religious police in place. Women are under the permanent rule of law and threaten them at any time.
The newspaper “Al-Ghadrian” says that after the end of studies in universities and schools and the advent of summer, the morality police focus its work on parking spaces in public places, and its members spread more to monitor the extent of compliance with the general dress code.
The newspaper notes that the Iranian morality police have to some extent abandoned the pursuit of men because of bracelets and unusual haircuts, and turned to a dedicated squad that targets women almost exclusively.
During the Khatami era in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the morality police declined, but soon returned stronger with former President Ahmadinejad, and their number increased, and began to pursue women even for nail polish.
Rare criticism from the media
The morality police are drawing criticism in Iran. In a rare move, Iranian newspapers on Saturday criticized the country’s morality police after the spread of a video clip of a woman pleading for her daughter’s release.
The criticism surfaced as public debate about the headscarf resurfaced after local media reported measures that might indicate stricter controls.
In his interview with Al-Hurra, Ali Rajab continues, saying: “Extremist religious references are becoming more concerned about women’s revolutions against the veil, which have been repeated a lot in the last decade,” adding that “the religious police, defended by stakeholders in the regime, are facing the soft threat of Western culture.” And moral decay is itself committing moral crimes against women.”
Morality officers became less visible after moderate President Hassan Rouhani came to power in 2013, but they soon returned with the arrival of Governor Ibrahim Raisi to the post.
In July, a video spread on social media of a woman standing in front of a morality police vehicle calling for the release of her daughter, and the veiled woman continued to hold on to the vehicle even after it set off before running away from it after increasing its speed.
Also in July, the Iranian young woman, Speedy Rachno, went missing after getting into an argument on a bus in Tehran with a woman who accused her of removing her headscarf.
She was detained by the Revolutionary Guards before appearing on television to make a confession, which activists considered a forced confession before she was released on bail in late August.
The latest victim of the morality police, Mahsa Amini, 22, was visiting Tehran with her family when she was stopped on Wednesday by the police unit tasked with enforcing strict dress codes on women, including requiring their hair to be covered with a headscarf. On Thursday, Tehran police said Mahsa Amini was arrested with other women for “instruction” on dress codes, and claimed that the girl “suddenly suffered from a heart problem … and was immediately taken to hospital.”
In his interview with Al-Hurra, Rajab Ali said that Mahsa’s killing “indicates that the regime is committing its crimes against the Iranian people in the name of religion… and it is nothing but a means for the ruling families in Tehran to remain in power… If the religious police are specifically concerned with women and the veil, it is rejected.” by the vast majority of the Iranian people.
Fars news agency reported that the girl’s body was buried on Saturday morning in her hometown of Saghiz, 460 km from Tehran in the Kurdistan region. On Saturday, security forces fired tear gas to disperse the protesters against the morality police and its repressive practices.