The Iranian vice police are again active in the streets of the country, looking for women who do not wear the headscarf in accordance with regulations. After the massive protests following the death of Masha Amini (22), the so-called Gasht-e-Ershad (morality police) was barely visible for ten months.
Masha Amini died in September a few days after she was detained for not wearing the Islamic headscarf correctly. According to her family, she died as a result of violence during her arrest. Due to massive protests across the country, the hated vice vans were temporarily removed from the streets by the Iranian regime.
Announcing the restart of patrols, Iranian police spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi told Iran’s Tasnim News that car and foot patrols would take place to crack down on people he says are “unconventionally dressed.” and ‘persistence in breaking the norms’. Tasnim estimates that up to 10 percent of Iranian women do not cover their hair properly. Images of uncovered women often crop up on Iranian social media.
Maryam, a 30-year-old woman from Tehran, is one of those norm-violating women. She is a supporter of the Iranian opposition, the outlawed People’s Mojahedin MEK, and therefore cannot give her full name. In an interview via Telegram, she says that she herself has also been beaten by the vice squad. “I have been approached several times and that led to heated discussions. They beat me hard when they tried to put me in the car. They took us to the ‘moral police’s prosecutor’s office’, where there were countless girls who, like me, had been arrested for ‘not wearing a headscarf properly’. Some were detained, others were released after a few hours. In the end, they let my girlfriend and me go because we continue to resist.”
As the protests subsided after Amini’s death, the regime engaged in extensive discussions with Shia theologians about the best methods of forcing women to wear the hijab. There is talk of new laws currently pending in parliament that would impose fines or force shops and cafes to close if they serve women who do not wear the hijab in the prescribed manner. Some say traffic surveillance cameras in Tehran have been modified to scan the faces of women without hijab. Maryam has already seen enough of the morality police in Tehran this week. “The streets were full of their cars. They mainly target women without headscarves. That is a bit different from before the protests, because then they attacked anyone who, in their eyes, was even slightly ‘wrongly’ dressed, including people with short coats, short sleeves or trendy clothes.”
Young people in particular continue to resist the vice police and do not give up. In the city of Rasht, north of Tehran, young people chanted slogans against the moral police and the regime. According to Maryam, the situation in Iranian society remains explosive. The economy is suffering heavily from international sanctions and people can hardly make ends meet. At the same time, the number of executions and prisoners is increasing daily.
“We are still seeing protests from different groups in society, such as teachers, students and pensioners. People among themselves say that we must find new ways to create uprisings that lead to the overthrow of the regime. This is precisely why the regime has once again deployed the morality police. It wants to monitor the situation to prevent or divert new uprisings ahead of the September 2022 commemoration, when protests began after the death of Masha Amini. For us, it is not just about the freedom to choose whether to wear a headscarf, but about freedom in general, about democracy, justice and the overthrow of the regime. A headscarf and the free choice of clothing are just one of our many demands.”
Women hitting women
The Iranian moral police is partly made up of women. They are ‘well trained physically’ and themselves wear a chador, a robe that covers the entire body except the face. Almost all of them are members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Basij, a volunteer paramilitary militia founded by Ayatollah Khomeini. They function as an instrument of oppression of the strict Islamic regime. The women of the vice squad have little compassion. They speak contemptuously to other women, according to witnesses.
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