After eleven weeks of protests following the death of Mahsa Amini in Tehran, an Iranian official indicated the morality police had been suspended and that the government would consider relaxing its strict hijab law, but some say these sweeping statements are a strategy to quell uprisings; in response, protesters in Iran called for a three-day strike this week.
The morality police, a police unit that enforces dress code, was the target of country-wide protests since September, after 22-year-old Amini died in the unit’s custody for allegedly violating the dress rules—which have been imposed since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said the morality police “was abolished by the same authorities who installed it,” a statement that was reported by the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency, according to Reuters. The Interior Ministry, which oversees the morality police, has not confirmed the suspension of the force. Montazeri, who acknowledged the judiciary does not have authority over the morality police, said his branch “continues to monitor behavioural actions at the community level.” On Saturday, Montazeri said that the law that requires women to wear hijabs would be reviewed. Top Iranian government officials have been opposed to changing hijab policies.
In a speech on Saturday, President Ebrahim Raisi said that while Iran’s Islamic system was enshrined in its constitution, he added, “There are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible.”
Despite these statements, activists are skeptical that any change will arise, saying these promising words are just an attempt to curb protests. Some are even calling it “disinformation” to say that the morality police will be abolished.
On Sunday, activist Masih Alinejad tweeted: “It’s disinformation that Islamic Republic of Iran has abolished it’s morality police. It’s a tactic to stop the uprising. Protesters are not facing guns and bullets to abolish morality police or forced hijab.They want to end Islamic regime.”
“Morality police hasn’t been abolished in Iran. This is a lie to deceive protester and to divide them just before nationwide calls for protests in the next coming days,” journalist and TV show host Sima Sabet tweeted.
“Iran’s attorney general has made some ambiguous statements that could possibly be construed as an end to the morality police, but may also suggest that judiciary wants to disassociate itself from the institution. Statements cited in press do not equal a change in policy,” said Borzou Daragahi, an international correspondent for The Independent.
“There’s simply not enough evidence at this stage to indicate that the Iranian regime is either shutting down its notorious morality police or backing down on the issue of mandatory hijab based on some vague remarks by one official,” BBC journalist Shayan Sardarizadeh said.
Originally published in Vanityfair.com