Iran’s attempt to abandon the controversial morality police has sparked skepticism on social media.

Key points
  • Attorney General Mohammad Jaafar Montazeri said the vice police had been abolished.
  • The move represents a rare concession to the protest movement.
  • Activists say the vice ban is misinformation and a tactic to stop the uprising.
Iran has abolished its vice police after more than two months of protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly violating the country’s strict women’s dress code, an official said Sunday.
Women-led protests, which the authorities are calling “riots,” have swept Iran since a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish descent died on September 16, three days after her arrest by Tehran’s vice police.

Demonstrators burned their obligatory hijab head covering and shouted anti-government slogans, and more women are refraining from wearing the hijab, especially in parts of Tehran.

“The vice police have nothing to do with the judiciary and have been abolished,” Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
His comment was made at a religious conference where he answered a question about “why the Vice Police are shutting down,” the report said.
The move represents a rare concession to the protest movement, and authorities have also acknowledged the demoralizing effect of the economic crisis caused by US sanctions.

“The best way to counter the unrest is … to pay attention to the real needs of the people,” Seyyed Nezamoldin Mousavi, spokesman for the parliament’s presidium council, said, referring to “livelihood and the economy.”

“Culture of Humility”

Some Iranians on social media were skeptical of the news, including those who expressed fear that another unit would take over his role, as well as others, pointing out that strong social pressure remains at home.

Since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, which toppled the US-backed monarchy in Iran, the authorities have enforced a strict dress code for women and men.

But under uncompromising President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Vice Police, officially known as the Gasht-e Ershad or Leading Patrol, was set up to “spread the culture of modesty and the wearing of the hijab.”

The divisions were created by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution of Iran, which today is headed by President Ebrahim Raisi.
They began their patrols in 2006 to enforce a dress code that also requires women to wear long clothes and bans shorts, ripped jeans and other clothing deemed immodest.

The announcement of the abolition of the units came a day after Mr Montazeri said “both parliament and the judiciary are working” on whether the law requiring women to cover their heads should be changed.


An Iranian cleric walks past a mural during an anti-American rally. Source: AARP / ABEDIN TAERKENARE/EPA

Mr. Raisi said in television commentary on Saturday that Iran’s republican and Islamic foundations are enshrined in the constitution, “but there are ways to implement the constitution that can be flexible.”

Wearing the hijab became mandatory in 1983. At first, the vice police issued warnings before harassing and arresting women 15 years ago.

The detachments usually consisted of men in green uniforms and women dressed in a black veil, a garment that covered the head and upper body.

The role of units has evolved but has always been controversial.
Clothing norms have been slowly changing, especially under former moderate President Hassan Rouhani, when it became common to see women in skinny jeans and wide, colorful headscarves.
But this past July, his successor, the ultra-conservative Raisi, called for the mobilization of “all government agencies to enforce the headscarf law.”

Raisi stated at the time that “the enemies of Iran and Islam target the cultural and religious values ​​of society by spreading corruption.”

President Ebrahim Raisi speaks at a rally - Tehran

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a rally outside the former US embassy in Tehran. Source: AARP / (Photo by SalamPix/ABACAPRESS.COM)

Thousands Arrested

In September, the Union of the Islamic People’s Party of Iran, the country’s main reformist party, called for the repeal of the hijab law.
On Saturday, he also called on the Islamic Republic to publicly shut down the vice police and “allow peaceful demonstrations.”

Iran accuses its enemy the US and its allies, including Britain and Israel, as well as Kurdish groups based outside the country, of fueling street protests.

More than 300 people have died in the riots, including dozens of members of the security forces, an Iranian general said on Monday.
Oslo-based NGO Iranian Human Rights said last week that at least 448 people have been “killed by security forces in ongoing nationwide protests.”

Thousands were arrested, including famous Iranian actors and football players.