Iran is in the midst of a tense situation as last Tuesday, September 13, a 22-year-old girl named Mahsa Amini, 22, died after being detained by the Iranian morality police.
These “guardians of morals” are accused of having beaten the young woman to such an extent that she ended up in the hospital and was in a coma for three days, later she died. This supposedly because the young woman was wearing her veil (hijab) wrongly.
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For this reason, thousands of people have taken to the streets to protest against Amini’s murder. To date, state media speak of 17 deaths, while NGOs speak of 31 victims.
“People are shocked and furious at what happened to Mahsa Amini,” reported the reformist daily Etemad, noting that the country has witnessed “violence by the morality police on several occasions.”
In images circulating on the networks, Iranian women can be seen removing their veils and cutting their hair, while the police repress the protesters with tear gas and water.
However, who are these “morality police” and what are their functions? Here we tell you the origin of this body that watches over morality and the preservation of Islamic “good customs”.
How did the morality police come about?
The morality police was born with the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini rose to power by overthrowing Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlev. With this, a theocratic government was established that rejected Western culture and sought to recover the Islamic customs that had been relegated.
Although the revolution was not supported by all Iranians, many followers of the Koran, and influenced by the movement’s ideologue, Ali Shariati, joined the defense of the uprising.
The morality police is a body that has taken different forms since 1979, but it is the Gasht-e Ershad agency that is responsible for enforcing the Islamic code of conduct in public.
This body is backed by the Basij, a paramilitary force mobilized in 1980 to fight the Iran-Iraq war. Basij has a presence in universities across the country and monitors people’s dress and behavior.
Among the responsibilities of the moral police is that of “preventing vices” by monitoring, for example women, so that the dress code is not violated and “promoting virtues” following the rules dictated by the Islamic religion.
This is why they come to arrest women who do not wear the hijab well, that is, who reveal part of their hair; they also restrict the use of cosmetics.
This is a surveillance body made up of men and women, who also wear a veil that covers their entire body, and move around in patrols, then visit crowded places such as squares, parks or shopping centers to stop women who do not behave well. veil, if they wear clothes that “reveal too much of their body”, if their pants are tight and the use of excessive makeup.
What happens to detained people?
They receive a notification and are sometimes taken to correctional centers to be re-educated on the “correct” way of dressing and how to behave “morally”.
They are normally released the same day and handed over to a male relative. They can also be taken to jail or even flogged.
In an interview for the BBC, a morality police agent told about his experience in said body.
“We were told that the reason we are working for the morale police units is to protect women,” she said. “Because if they don’t dress appropriately, then men could be provoked and hurt them,” she noted.
“It’s like we’re going hunting.”
“It’s weird, because if we’re just going to guide people, why do we have to pick a bustling place where we could potentially have to arrest more people?”
He also said that many of them are pressured to meet an arrest quota or they would be reprimanded by their superiors.
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“I want to tell you that I am not one of them. Most of us are ordinary soldiers doing our mandatory military service. I feel so bad.”