HomeWorldIran: What is the Moral Police that enforces the hijab

Iran: What is the Moral Police that enforces the hijab

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Much of Iran’s social laws are based on Islamic Sharia, which requires men and women to dress modestly. However, the Ethos police only target women.

Last week, the Mahsa Amini22, died of injuries sustained after being taken into custody because did not comply with the headscarf legislation in Iran. Her death has sparked a huge wave of reactions, leading to anti-government protests in many cities across the country, as shown by videos posted on social media. The president’s government Ibrahim Raisi has mobilized security forces to quell the protesters. Images of intense violence between police and protesters, however, are not uncommon in Iran. Women burn their headscarves in the middle of the street and people applaud. Human rights groups say at least 30 people have so far died during the protests.

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“Iranian women wear the hijab voluntarily”, Iran’s president said in an interview broadcast on the American CBS channel on Sunday, as people protested in the streets. His statement stands in stark contrast to the dozens of images and videos released online shortly after, which show women they burn their headscarvesin order to denounce him strict dress code for women in Iran. But what are Moral Police and why does the Iranian government need them to enforce the hijab?

State failure

For decades, the government in Iran has tried to force all women, just before puberty, to wear a headscarf or any head covering, as well as loose clothing when in public. But failed. Despite the huge budget allocated to spreading the hijab through schools, media and public events, many Iranian women they have found ways to defy ultraconservative codes clothing. Millions of them push the boundaries, wearing tight clothes and using the headscarf as a colorful accessory, but which reveals a lot of their hair.

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The infamous “Gasht-e-Ershad” which literally translates as “Guidance Patrols” and is more commonly known as Ethos Policeis a section of Iran’s police force, which has shouldered the clothing control for the implementation of the headscarf law in public places. Much of Iran’s social laws are based on Islamic Sharia, which requires men and women to dress modestly. However, the Ethos police only target women. Those detained by the Moral Police either leave with only a “warning”, or in some cases, are taken to the “training and counseling” center or a police station. They then have to call someone to bring them a “suitable garment” to set them free.

Wave of anger from the people

After the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the rise of the Islamists, the Morals Police has taken various forms. While moderate and reformist administrations have been somewhat reluctant to control the dress code, the ultraconservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who took power in 2005, gave the Morality Police its current form. At the same time, it increased its presence on the streets of Iran’s major cities. Since then dozens of activists have “struggled” against this authoritarian presence, with several of them being imprisoned.

The equally ultra-conservative Raishi government increased its presence even further. Many videos posted online show widespread use of violence. In response, thousands of women took to the streets without headscarves. In July, after video of a mother begging Ethan police to release her sick daughter went viral online, calls for the police force to be disbanded grew. In an unprecedented move, a hundred religious women have started speaking out online against the compulsory hijab. Even some conservative figures began to criticize the headscarf law, saying that it even had the opposite effect on public behavior.

In addition to racial discrimination, the Ethos police are also heavily criticized for restricting themselves to patrolling the middle and working classes and bypassing affluent neighborhoods. Critics claim that while lower-class women are persecuted for their appearance, wealthy families with close ties to the government are free to display images of their lavish mixed parties online.

Does the state benefit in any way?

The Raisi government faces serious problems, such as soaring inflation, international sanctions and internal tensions plaguing the country. More and more national uprisings in the country are turning into scenes of violence. Maintaining an expensive police unit that continues to cause outrage seems unwarranted.

However, some observers say President Raisi has no choice but to retain this power. “The system will lose a large part of its supporters forever, without gaining the support of those who protest.” wrote freelance journalist Fereste Sadeghi in one of his tweets. “Protesters want much more than the abolition of the compulsory hijab and will continue to demand it.”

DW / Monir Ghedi / Editor: Iosifina Tsagalidou

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