Last week, the Mahsha Amini, 22, died of her injuries after being detained for not complying with headscarf laws 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.
President Ibrahim Raisi’s government has mobilized security forces to quell the protesters. Images of intense violence between police and protesters, however, are not uncommon 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.
“Iranian women wear the hijab voluntarily”, Iran’s president said in an interview broadcast on the US CBS channel on Sunday, as people protested in the streets. His statement was in stark contrast to dozens of images and videos released online shortly after, showing women burning their headscarves to denounce Iran’s strict dress code for women. But what are Moral Police and why does the Iranian government need them to enforce the hijab?
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 it failed. Despite the huge budget allocated to spreading the hijab through schools, media and public events, many Iranian women have found ways to defy the ultra-conservative dress codes. 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.
The infamous ‘Gasht-e-Ershad’ which literally translates as ‘Guidance Patrols’ and is more commonly known as the Morals Police, is a section of Iran’s police force that has shouldered the dress code to enforce 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 “fight” 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 is facing 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.”
Source: Deutsche Welle
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