12/05/2022, 18.58
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Conflicting signals about the future of Iran’s morality police

Iran’s attorney general announced its abolition yesterday, but no official confirmation has come from the government. State media have denied the information, claiming that the minister’s words were taken out of context. Protesters announce a three-day strike. For Iran’s Foreign Minister, “everything is moving forward well in the framework of democracy and freedom.”

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iran is sending conflicting signals with respect to the abolition of the notorious Guidance Patrols, better known as the “morality police”.

The latter has become the centre of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was detained in the capital in September for failing to properly cover her head. She eventually died in police custody during questioning.

Yesterday, Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced that the patrols would be shut down by the same authorities that created them, denying they were even under the authority of the judiciary.

Within hours, government media reported that the patrols, known as Gasht-e Ershad in Persian, would remain in operation, while Ensieh Khazali, vice president for Women and Family Affairs, denied the patrols’ very existence, speaking more generally of a "security" police.

Meanwhile, protests continue, with a call for a three-day strike this week in order to bring to a halt all economic activities and shut down businesses.

A large rally is also planned on 7 December, with the main venue being one of Iran’s most iconic places, Azadi (Freedom) Square.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi also plans to address young people in the capital on that same day, to mark National Student Day.

Over the past few weeks, mass protests have sparked unprecedented grassroots mobilisation, not seen since the Islamic revolution of 1979, which the authorities have met with an increasingly violence crackdown.

At least 470 protesters have been killed, including 64 minors, plus 61 members of the security forces, this according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a press association established by Iranian human rights advocates.

Up to 18,210 people have been arrested so far, with some already sentenced to death after a quick trial. The official death toll for Tehran alone is about 200.

In addition to Montazeri’s announcement that the morality police was being disbanded, which was not confirmed, Entekhab, a reformist newspaper, quoted the attorney general as saying that the authorities were reviewing the dress code for women that includes mandatory head covering. However, nothing has been confirmed and women still have to cover their heads.

Conversely, the morality police do appear to be less and less visible in the streets, a sign that the authorities are trying to avoid further clashes and provocations.

Al Alam, an Iranian Arabic-language state-owned broadcaster, said that Montazeri's comments were taken out of context and distorted. Other media have reiterated that there are no plans to change the dress code.

In Belgrade, Serbia, where he is currently on an official visit, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian was also asked during a press conference about the possible abolition of the morality police.

He neither confirmed nor denied it, limiting himself to saying that “In Iran, everything is moving forward well in the framework of democracy and freedom.”

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