FGN News: Iranian activists and Western countries on Monday dismissed claims that the protest-hit Islamic republic has dismantled its notorious morality police, insisting there would be no change to women’s rights.
There were also calls on social media for a three-day strike in Iran, which ends Wednesday on the annual Students’ Day, nearly three months into a nationwide wave of unrest sparked by the death in custody of a Kurdish woman- Iranian Mahsa Amini.
Police morality officers arrested Amini, 22, in Tehran for allegedly flouting Iran’s strict dress code that requires women to wear modest clothing and a hijab headscarf.
“We have seen nothing to suggest that the Iranian leadership is improving its treatment of women and girls or ending the violence it inflicts on peaceful protesters,” the US State Department said.
Germany’s foreign ministry said Iranian protesters “want to live freely and in self-determination”, and to disband the morality police, “if it is implemented, that will not change”.
Amini’s death on September 16 sparked protests led by women that have been the biggest challenge to the regime since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Hundreds of Iranians, including several members of the security forces, were killed.
In a surprise move over the weekend, Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted as saying that the morality police units — known as Gasht-e Ershad (“Guidance Patrol”) — had been shut down.
But campaigners were skeptical about his comments, which appeared to be an impromptu response to a question at a conference rather than a clearly signposted announcement by the interior ministry.
The removal of the force, activists say, does not mark a change in Iran’s headscarf policy — a key ideological pillar for its clerical leadership — but rather a shift in its enforcement tactics. .
And scrapping the units is “probably too late” for protesters who are now demanding outright regime change, Boroumand said.
“There is nothing preventing other law enforcement” bodies from policing “discriminatory laws”, he said.
The morality police have been a familiar sight since 2006 when they were introduced during the presidency of the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
But the rules, including the headscarf, have long been strictly enforced by the clerical leadership that ruled after the fall of the secularist shah in 1979.
It was anger over the mandatory headscarf rule that sparked the first protests following the death of Amini, whose family said she died from a blow to her head while in custody. The authorities dispute this.
But the protest movement, also fueled by years of anger over economic grievances and political repression, is now marked by calls for an end to the Islamic republic led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Norway-based group Iran Human Rights (IHR) told AFP on Monday that at least 504 people have been executed in Iran this year — more than last year’s total.
Reports from Tehran suggested that the dreaded morality police vans became less common or even disappeared after the protests.
According to witnesses, many women in Tehran’s fashionable north as well as in the city’s more moderate and traditional south will now go bareheaded in protest signs.
“The alleged suspension of Iranian morality by the police means nothing,” argued Omid Memarian of the group Democracy for the Arab World Now, citing the “huge level of civil disobedience by women”.
He described the mandatory headscarf as “one of the pillars of the Islamic republic”, and its abolition “means a fundamental change in the identity and existence of the Islamic republic”.
Montazeri’s declaration and the confusion that followed were seen as a sign of anxiety within the regime over how to deal with the protests, which continue despite a crackdown that the IHR says has killed at least 448 people.
Universities are among the protest locations, and ultra-conservative President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to visit two campuses in Tehran on Students’ Day, Wednesday, state news agency IRNA reported.
Conservative newspapers in Iran on Monday ignored the prosecutor general’s comment, with only reformist dailies putting the issue on their front pages.
“Is this the end of the patrol?” asked the Sharq newspaper, noting that police public relations did not confirm this.
Memarian said this was an example of “deceptive measures used by the Islamic republic in times of desperation” and warned that “other strict policies and measures” could follow.
The hijab is “still compulsory”, said Shadi Sadr, co-founder of the London-based group Justice for Iran. As protests began over Amini’s death, he predicted, “Iranians will not rest until the regime is gone.”