Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said Thursday that Iran’s parliament and judiciary are reviewing the country’s mandatory hijab law, according to pro-reform outlet Entekhab. Montazeri was also quoted as saying Iran’s feared morality police had been “abolished” but Iranian state media strongly pushed back on those comments, saying the interior ministry oversees the force, not the judiciary. The CNN has the story:
Iran shuts down ‘Morality Police’; can ease hijab law
Iran is apparently shutting down its “morality police” amid violent protests sweeping the nation since the death of a woman forcibly taken into custody after being accused of violating the theocracy’s strict Islamic dress code.
Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, speaking Sunday at a religious conference, said the Gasht-e Ershad “had nothing to do with the judiciary and have been shut down,” according to BBC Persian. The Gasht-e-Ershad reported to Iran’s Interior Ministry.
Mahsa Amini, 22, died in custody Sept. 16 after being accused of breaking a 1983 law requiring women to wear a head scarf, or hijab. Outrage ensued, and a growing number of women have stopped wearing the hijab.
The Interior Ministry said Sunday that over 200 people, including security forces and civilian, have died in the protests. Damage was estimated at $40 million.
On Saturday, Montazeri said the hijab law would be reviewed and that recommendations could come in a week or two. President Ebrahim Raisi, who called for a crackdown on the hajib law in July, also showed signs of retreat.
“There are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible,” he said.
The morality police was established in 2005 under then-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hard-liner who sought to “spread the culture of modesty and hijab.” Women also are required to cover their bodies in long, loose clothing.
The uprisings have rolled across dozens of cities, and the government has blocked Internet connectivity across the nation. Mass arrests of students, journalists, activists, artists, sports figures and celebrities who expressed grievances with Iran’s hard-line government have become almost daily events.
The issue spread into the World Cup underway in Qatar. Iran’s national team qualified, then the players refused to sing the national anthem in their first match against England. The team played three games – including a loss to the U.S. – and was knocked out before single-elimination games began Saturday.
Montazeri was also quoted as saying Iran’s feared morality police had been “abolished” but Iranian state media strongly pushed back on those comments, saying the interior ministry oversees the force, not the judiciary.
The wearing of a hijab in public is currently mandatory for women in Iran under strict Islamic law that is enforced by the country’s so-called morality police. The laws around the head covering sparked a nationwide protest movement after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being apprehended by the morality police allegedly for not wearing her hijab properly.
Her death on September 16 touched a nerve in the Islamic Republic, with prominent public figures coming out in support of the movement, including top Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti.
The country has been gripped by a wave of mass protests that were first ignited by Amini’s death and have since coalesced around a range of grievances with the regime. Authorities have unleashed a deadly crackdown on demonstrators, with reports of forced detentions and physical abuse being used to target the country’s Kurdish minority group.
In a recent CNN investigation, covert testimony revealed sexual violence against protesters, including boys, in Iran’s detention centers since the start of the unrest.
On the hijab law, Montazeri said, “We know you feel anguished when you witness [women] without a hijab in cities, do you think the officials are silent about it? As someone who is in the field of this issue, I say that both the parliament and the judiciary are working, for example, just yesterday we had a meeting with the cultural commission of the parliament, and you will see the results within the next week or two,” as quoted by ISNA, state-affiliated media.
But there is no evidence of what, if any, changes could be forthcoming to the law, which came into effect after the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Arab-language Al-Alam state television claimed foreign media were depicting Montazeri’s comments as “a retreat on the part of the Islamic Republic from its stance on hijab and religious morality as a result of the protests”, but that all that could be understood from his comments was that the morality police were not directly related to the judiciary.
“But no official of the Islamic Republic of Iran has said that the Guidance Patrol has been shut,” Al-Alam said Sunday afternoon.
“Some foreign media have attempted to interpret these words by the prosecutor-general as the Islamic Republic retreating from the issue of Hijab and modesty and claim that it is due to the recent riots.”