Iran abolishes morality police and considers changes to mandatory hijab law amid ongoing anti-government protests

Topline

Iranian authorities have abolished the country’s morality police — which would publicly punish women for not following the country’s strict dress code — after months of anti-government protests across the country sparked by the death of the 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained and beaten by controversial police.

Main facts

The move was announced by Iran’s attorney general Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, who said the morality police “has nothing to do with the judiciary” and will therefore be abolished, AFP reported on Sunday, citing local media reports.

Montazeri’s comment was made at a religious event and was in response to an attendee’s question about the status of the vice squad.

The controversial police force and its top officials have been hit by a series of sanctions by several countries, including the US, UK, Canada and the EU.

Iranian media, citing Montazeri, reported on Saturday that the country’s government was reviewing its dress code laws for women, which require them to cover their heads with a hijab and wear loose-fitting clothing that covers their arms and legs.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also alluded to possible reforms in a televised address on Saturday, where he reiterated the link between Iran’s Islamic and Republican foundations, but added that “there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible” .

What to watch out for

The announcement is likely an attempt by the Iranian government to quell the protests that have rocked the country since September. But it is unclear whether the protesters will see this as an adequate concession from the government, which has continued to crack down on public dissent. While the protests initially began as anti-hijab demonstrations, they have gradually turned into a wider backlash against the country’s orthodox Islamic regime, with many even calling for the impeachment of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

News Peg

Despite offers to make changes to the strict dress code, the Iranian government has continued to crack down on all protests across the country. At least 470 protesters were killed in the crackdown on Sunday. according to the US-based group of human rights activists in Iran. At least 64 children are among the total deaths, the report adds. In a statement Friday, Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said more than 14,000 people have been arrested since Sept. 16, including human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, students, civil and minority activists, intellectuals and artists. .”

Key background

The ongoing protests across Iran were triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, in September. On September 13, Amini, who was visiting Tehran, was arrested by the vice squad for allegedly violating the country’s restrictive dress code for women. After her arrest, Amini was reportedly “hit on the head with a baton” and her head was “bumped into the side of the police vehicle,” according to the UN Human Rights Office. Amini then fell into a coma and eventually died in hospital on September 16, sparking a wave of nationwide anger.

Read further

Protest-hit Iran says review of mandatory headscarf law (France 24)

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