Iran disbands morality police but keeps headscarf law in place

By Jamie Leon

Tehran, Dec 7 (EFE).- While Iranian demonstrators secured a partial victory when the morality police were disbanded, the mandatory hijab law remains in effect across the Islamic Republic.

After almost three months of protests that have led to more than 400 deaths and thousands of arrests, the Iranian authorities started to give in to demands in an attempt to quell the unrest that broke out in the wake of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody after she was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf incorrectly.

But the shutdown of the unit that for years treated women as criminals for not adhering to the country’s strict dress rules does not mean that the protesters are getting the freedoms they have been demanding.

MODERN METHODS

“The mission of the morality police patrols has ended,” spokesman for the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice Ali Khanmohammadi said, confirming attorney general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri’s earlier announcement.

But Khanmohammadi said that his committee, which monitors morality and customs in Iran, is now seeking more “modern” ways involving “new technologies” to apply the compulsory hijab law.

Other Iranian authorities affirmed that new policies regarding the mandatory wearing of hijab would be announced in the coming days.

The hijab, mandatory since 1983, has been one of the symbols of the Islamic Republic since its foundation by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.

Lawmaker and cleric Hossein Jalali said this week that upcoming policy changes would not include relaxing the dress code, as many have hoped for.

“It is possible to notify people who don’t wear through text messages and urge them to abide by the laws,” Jalali told the Shargh newspaper.

If a woman still does not put on the veil after that notification, she will go to a “warning stage,” he said without giving further information.

“The bank account of the person without the veil will possibly be blocked,” he added.

Failing to wear the hijab is punishable by up to two months in prison and fines in Iran.

Before the start of protests, authorities were already considering the use of facial recognition technology in metro and bus stations to identify hijab-less women.

Law enforcement already use traffic surveillance to spot women driving without a headscarf and identify them using their vehicle license plates.

All potential alternatives to morality police that had existed since 2005 seem to indicate that Iranian women will still be monitored and punished if they violate hijab laws.

CHALLENGING GESTURES

Most young women in Iran have suffered run-ins with the morality police and have been fined and forced to attend education classes.

Many are taking to the streets of the Persian country without the veil, in defiance of the obligatory law, and abolishing the morality police is unlikely to calm some protesters who have been calling for the downfall of the Islamic republic for weeks, chanting slogans such as “death to the dictator,” in reference to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei. EFE

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