Iran’s moral police resume hijab patrols after hiatus during protests

Iran’s so-called moral guards are resuming their public patrols to enforce the country’s strict Islamic dress code, officials said, marking an increase in the regime’s crackdown on women who refuse to wear the mandatory headscarf or hijab in public.

Tehran’s move marks the end of an apparent relaxation of public patrols by the morality police, which had seemingly slackened in the wake of mass protests following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman in force custody last September. Authorities detained Mahza Amini on charges of violating the dress code, and she died in their custody, activists say she was beaten. The protests sparked by Amini’s death have gripped Iran for months as a widespread show of discontent against the Islamic Republic’s conservative rulers.

A spokesman for Iran’s Law Enforcement Command, Seyed Montezer-al-Mahdi, said the Morale Police, or guidance patrol, which enforces Iran’s strict dress code by car and foot will resume on Monday. Iran’s state-affiliated Fars news agency reported on Sunday. He said authorities would issue warnings to those who insist on “violating social norms and wearing unconventional clothing”. Montezer-al-Mahdi said that if the person continued to defy the warning, police units would “deal with them legally”.

The videos show evidence of an escalating crackdown on Iranian protests

In the wake of Amini’s death, many women stopped wearing their hijabs, and some burned them at rallies.

Hundreds of people were killed and more than 20,000 were arrested. However, the exact number of detainees and their fate are unknown due to heavy censorship and reporting limitations in Iran.

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As the government moved to quell the unrest, the morality police also appeared to withdraw from their general patrol duties. In December, Attorney General Mohammed Zafar Montazeri even suggested that the force be suspended, fueling speculation about its future.

Iran has stepped up efforts to make the hijab compulsory for women

In the months that followed, Iranian officials said they were stepping up enforcement of the strict code. In April, Iran’s police chief announced plans to install surveillance cameras to detect women without headscarves. That same month, the country’s deputy attorney general warned that prosecutors would charge those who encourage women to remove their veils.

Sunday’s decision to resume moral police patrols, on top of April’s announcements, appears to be part of a broader effort by Iranian authorities to reassert their authority after the unrest, said Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program. London-based think tank Chatham House.

“There was a debate within the political establishment about how best to respond to the opposition and the debate oscillated between offering concessions on the one hand or doubling down to strengthen their power,” the lawyer said in a telephone interview on Monday. “The return of the moral police is a clear sign that the Starker approach has succeeded.”

The lawyer said it was too early to determine how much authority authorities would give to the morality police in enforcing Iran’s strict dress codes. He said police had relaxed enforcement of conservative dress codes after Amini’s killing. “It’s not just in liberal pockets of northern Tehran, but more broadly in various urban areas.” she added.

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Announcing the decision on Sunday, police spokesman Montezer-al-Mahdi praised those who followed the dress code, thanking the women and girls who “help society’s psychological peace by obeying social norms and dress codes.”

Iranian authorities require all women to wear the veil in public by law Since 1983, four years after the revolution, clerics have come to power, although enforcement of violations through guided patrols has ebbed and flowed since its establishment in the 1990s.

Last year, the United States, the European union And Britain Amini’s death followed the introduction of sanctions against the force – for that US Treasury Department It called the morality police “responsible”.

Miriam Berger contributed to this report.

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