Thu. Sep 28th, 2023


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Iran brings back morality police in fresh crackdown on women

3 min read

Yoghurt thrown over women in Iran

Iran’s authoritarian regime has announced a new drive to force women to wear the Islamic headscarf or hijab – with the notorious morality police returning to the streets less than a year after the death of a woman in their custody sparked nationwide protests.

The controversial outfit took a step back after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last September, with authorities struggling to contain mass protests demanding the overthrow of the theocracy which has ruled Iran since 1979.

The demonstrations lost steam after a heavy crackdown in which more than 500 protesters were killed and nearly 20,000 detained – but many women continued to flaunt the official dress code, particularly in the capital, Tehran, and other cities.

The morality police have only been seen patrolling the streets rarely in recent months, and in December, there were even some reports – later denied – that they had been disbanded altogether.

Throughout the crisis, authorities insisted that the rules had not changed, with Iran’s clerical rulers – notably Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei – viewing the hijab as a key pillar of the Islamic revolution which brought them to power, regarding more casual dress a sign of Western decadence.

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Police spokesman General Saeed Montazerolmahdi today said the morality police would resume notifying and then detaining women not wearing hijab in public.

In Tehran, the men and women of the morality police could be seen patrolling the streets in marked vans.

Late Saturday, police arrested Mohammed Sadeghi, a young and relatively unknown actor, in a raid on his home that he appears to have broadcast on social media.

Earlier, he had posted a video in response to another online video showing a woman being detained by the morality police.

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He said: “Believe me, if I see such a scene, I might commit murder.”

The website of the semi-official Hamshahri daily, which is affiliated with the Tehran municipality, said he was arrested for encouraging people to use weapons against the police.

The battle over the hijab became a powerful rallying cry last fall, with women playing a leading role in the protests.

The demonstrations quickly escalated into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical rulers, whom the mostly young protesters accuse of being corrupt, repressive and out of touch.

Iran’s government blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, without providing evidence.

Several Iranian celebrities joined the protests, including prominent directors and actors from the country’s celebrated film industry

A number of actresses were detained after appearing in public without the hijab or expressing support for the protests.

In a recent case, actress Azadeh Samadi was barred from social media and ordered by a court to seek psychological treatment for “antisocial personality disorder” after appearing at a funeral two months ago wearing a cap on her head.

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