After nationwide protests last year and a growing number of women defying the headscarf law, the “morality police” have effectively disappeared from the streets of Iran. But the authorities have launched a new law enforcement campaign. On Sunday, Saeid Montazeralmahdi, an Iranian police spokesman, confirmed that vehicle and foot patrols would be deployed. The country’s official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying police would initially issue warnings to non-compliant women and target those who “continue to break the law” in the judicial system.
In September last year, the 22-year-old Kurdish Woman Mahsa Jina Aminided in the hospital three days after being arrested by the “morality police” for wearing her hijab incorrectly. His death, allegedly due to maltreatment, sparked nationwide protests that have rocked the country for months. The authorities’ violent response resulted in the deaths of hundreds. Many women refuse to give up and more and more dare to appear in public without covering their heads. In December, officials claimed that the “morality police” had been disbanded.
But recently there have been reports of its return by many journalists and social media users in the Iranian capital Tehran, and other cities. On Sunday, a video began to circulate on social media that took the chance that several passers-by intervened to prevent “morality police” officers from arresting three women in the northern city of Rasht.
‘A failed project’
The Islamic republic remains steadfast in implementing its compulsory hijab policy, according to Azadeh Kian-Thiebaut, a sociologist at Paris Cite Universite, the Iranian regime is generally determined about implementing the hijab policy in the republic of Islam, which is seen as an important pillar. of the revolution that brought it to power. When it faces public dissatisfaction, it tries to rebrand and change its implementation methods, he told DW.
In recent months, the government has begun implementing facial recognition technology on public transportation and has also closed shopping malls, cafes and restaurants that accept women without the hijab. The authorities also forced taxi drivers not to accept uncovered women. But Kian-Thiebaut said these measures did not stop women from refusing to obey the law. “The compulsory hijab is a failed project,” he said. “Iranian women are beating it and men are supporting them.”
Kian-Thiebaut said that if the “morality police” return to the streets and the regime insists on women wearing headscarves, there will be a backlash and more tensions. He said the current fundamentalist government cannot impose its rule on “modern, diverse, and complex Iranian society” even though for Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and his hardline supporters, the more casual clothing is a sign of “cultural invasion” from the West.
This is especially true among the younger generation. DW reached a 25-year-old student in the city of Shiraz who uses the pseudonym Mandana and started going out without a hijab in “safe places” without a police presence about two years ago. passed. In November, she stopped wearing a scarf and didn’t even carry one in her bag just for the heck of it. “I really don’t want to go out now, but I changed my mind when I heard that the “morality police” are back,” he told DW. In opposition, he said, he passed a patrol without wearing a headscarf. “The officers just stood there and warned me to cover my hair. They didn’t seem to dare to do more, knowing we were going to fight them.”
The law has also been criticized by some lawmakers, politicians, and even clerics who believe that whether to wear hijab or not should be a matter of personal choice.
‘Perpetual state of chaos and rebellion’
Kian-Thiebaut said it is apparent that there is a lack of general support for the current regime and that Iran is in “a perpetual state of chaos and rebellion.” He said that the anger of the public towards the government fueled by rising prices, high unemployment rates, widespread corruption, and limited social freedoms. Therefore, he suggested, the regime has no other choice but to attend to the demands of the ultra-conservative minority that still supports it and this includes the implementation of the compulsory hijab.
Kian-Thiebaut’s view echoes that of many on social media.
“The country has been under severe sanctions for two decades. The price of food is not stable even in the short term… The country has been involved in protests with hundreds of deaths,” wrote Mostafa Arani, a journalist based in Tehran, at Twitter. “Then, the police are tasked with forcing half of the citizens to wear a scarf on their head on a 40 degree Celsius summer day, all because apparently the country’s laws are based on the religious interpretation of minority.”
Distraction from corruption scandals?
The return of the “morality police” comes shortly after two investigations carried out by Iranian journalists revealed the involvement of leading clerics in large-scale financial corruption and land grabbing and made headlines in the Iranian print and online media. Among the clerics cited in the investigation is President Ebrahim Raisi’s father-in-law, Ayatollah Ahmad Alam al-Hoda, who is widely known for his fundamentalist views.
“It is unlikely that the return of the ‘morality police’ has anything to do with efforts to cover up various other corruptions,” wrote Homayoun Kheyri, a London-based journalist, on his Twitter account“The supporters of this incompetent government are backed financially and organizationally by the religious establishment, which has a history of corrupting the country. Law enforcement forces are also under financial pressure, and injecting money will enable them to -organize such maneuvers.”
Edited by: Anne Thomas