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The Suspension of Iran’s Morality Police

After more than ten weeks of protests in Iran, the country is said to have suspended the Morality Police, which was responsible for the death of a 22-year-old, Mahsa Amini, who had failed to comply with the country’s strict religious dress code.

The death of the young Iranian-Kurdish woman at the hands of the Morality Police of Iran sparked protests in different parts of the country. She was arrested and executed by Iran's infamous Morality Police for breaking the country’s law regarding women's dress code, which mandates that women should wear headscarves or have their hair completely covered.


Women have been at the forefront of these protests, they have burned their headscarves and have publicly cut their hair to show support for the protests against these strict laws. “Women, Life, Freedom” has emerged as the protest’s slogan. These protests were later joined by Iranian men and children. The protestors have faced a brutal and violent crackdown by the security forces. Thousands of children, men and women have been killed. Several human rights violations have taken place with many Iranian’s found beaten ,tortured, jailed and executed.


Iranian officials have hinted, without going into specifics, that the activities of the Morality Police have been suspended temporarily and that they might change how the country's mandated clothing codes are applied.


At a gathering, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General said "The Morality Police had nothing to do with the judiciary and have been shut down from where they were set up."

He was replying to a query on why the Morality Police were being shut down. The suspension of the Morality Police has not received any additional confirmation or details. And it is not clear from Montazeri’s statement if he meant that the Morality Police had been completely disbanded never to return or whether they would in a different form. The Islamic regime has also not given any official statement.


However, even if the news of the suspension is confirmed, this will not necessarily stop the protestors, who are not just fighting the Morality Police but are also fighting the regime’s ideology.


On the other hand, The Iranian media has denied the suspension of the Morality Police, stating that the maximum impression that can be taken out of Montazeri’s statement is that the Morality Police is not related to the judiciary and that it will continue to monitor the behavior of the Iranians.


As of now things remain uncertain. Nothing that has been said implies that the regime’s requirement that women wear the headscarf at all times is ending, women are still required to wear a hijab and cover their hair properly. For the time being the world will just have to wait and watch from the sidelines.


IRAN’S MORALITY POLICY


"Gasht-e-Ershad," which translates to "guidance patrols," and is popularly known as the "morality police," was founded under Iran’s former hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


The morality or the guidance police are the religious police of the country, which enforces religious practices based on sharia law (Islamic law). It aims is to impose an Islamic dress code, especially in regard to women's hijabs when they are inadequately dressed in accordance with the dress code.


Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution of Iran, All Iranian women are compelled by law to wear hijabs - cover their heads fully and the morality police have been assigned with the purpose and responsibility of arresting Iranians who disobey the dress code, especially women who fail to comply with the dress code. Iran’s morality police was established in 2005 and it was after this year that the police started patrolling the streets.


HISTORY OF THE HIJAB/VEIL


The hijab or veil in Islam has a long history and has different social and cultural meanings attached to it. Wearing a headscarf or hijab to cover the hair symbolizes modesty. In the Holy Book of Islam as well, there is no particular or direct reference to covering female hair. Over time, Muslim customs began to incorporate the hijab.


The practice of veiling was prevalent in Iran when it was a part of the Persian Empire, but it was exclusively an upper-class custom. Since it would have restricted the activities of rural and tribal women as they were actively involved in the socio-economic activities, the women used to cover their head covering at home. Head coverings have historically been a component of Iranian men's and women's ethnic and traditional attire.


Reza Shah Pahlavi, the former monarch of the country, had embraced a modern vision. He abolished the Islamic veils. This event is known as Kashf-e-Hijab (unveiling). This move angered conservatives and was fiercely opposed by conservatives from the secular and religious communities who saw it as an attack on Muslim women and Islamic culture.

Reza Shah's efforts to modernize Iran and project a new image of the country included unveiling women as a key component. To accomplish the unveiling of women, he even employed force. However, the custom of unveiling faded over time.


The 1970s changed the situation in Iran completely, The 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew the monarchy and established the Islamic Republic. Ayatollah Khomeini became the undisputed leader of the revolution. They introduced traditional Islamic practices. The rulers introduced social and cultural changes that downgraded the status of women in society, imposed restrictions on civil liberties and prohibited cultural practices.


The Iranian government started imposing Islamic veils. Thousands of Iranian women protested the veil by marching in the streets. They kept on protesting and voicing their disapproval of the veil. There was a harsh crackdown on these protests. The violators were punished with fines and lashes. Even for women who are modestly dressed, the tiniest hair exposure results in punishment.


Since the Islamic regime came to power, women are required by law to wear modest, "Islamic," clothing. This demands that women should wear a burqa to cover their bodies and heads and a chador, hijab, or headscarf and in August 1983, the Islamic veil was made compulsory for women.


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