After months of protests, an official suggests that Iran has abolished its morality police

The government did not confirm the action, but it may be seen as a surrender to the protest movement that arose following the death of a young lady while under the morality police’s custody. In response to months of demonstrations sparked by the death of a young lady who was arrested by the force for supposedly disobeying the nation’s stringent Islamic clothing regulations, a top Iranian official declared this past weekend that Iran has dissolved the morality police, according to state media. At a meeting on Saturday when officials were discussing the disturbance, Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri reportedly remarked that the morality police “was abolished by the same authorities who created it.” The theocratic government has not confirmed nor denied abolishing the morality police, so it was unclear whether the statement represented a definitive decision. But if the force is eliminated, the situation is unlikely to improve as protestors continue to battle with other security personnel and have grown so confident that some are demanding for the Islamic Republic to be overthrown. The Iranian police, not the attorney general, are in charge of the morality police, and on Sunday, there were rumors that the government would be attempting to downplay the importance of Mr. Montazeri’s remarks.

When asked about the downfall of the morality police at a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, where he was on an official visit, Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, did not deny it but stated instead that “In Iran, everything is moving forward well in the framework of democracy and freedom.”

Mr. Montazeri, for his part, stated on Saturday that the courts will continue to impose limitations on “social conduct.” A few days prior, he stated that the government was reviewing the rule mandating women to cover their bodies with long, loose clothes and their hair with a head scarf or hijab, and that they will make a decision within 15 days. However, it remained unclear if the authorities intended to loosen the law.

The government’s first significant concession to the protest movement following the murder of Mahsa Amini, 22, in the morality police’s custody in September seemed to be hinted at in Mr. Montazeri’s remarks. The uprising has turned into one of Iran’s authoritarian clerical system’s biggest challenges in decades.

There have been several reports from Iranian citizens stating that since the protests began about three months ago, the morality police have not been seen on the streets and that women are increasingly showing their hair in public. However, videos reveal that other security forces, like as the notorious Basij militias, have been beating and detaining women who walk outside with their hair uncovered.

Despite the symbolism, the morality police’s declared abolishment is unlikely to significantly calm the ordinary Iranians who have been taking to the streets since Ms. Amini’s death to call for radical reform.

Iranian women and activists used social media on Sunday to denounce talk of disbanding the force as a government propaganda ploy to divert attention away from the demonstrators’ more pressing demands for the end of the Islamic Republic’s reign. Many believed that the compromise would be too little, too late.

The removal of the morality police, according to Shadi Sadr, a well-known human rights attorney who has battled for women’s rights in Iran for decades, wouldn’t be a major deal because “hijab is still mandatory and enforced by other ways, such as expulsion from university or school.”

She declared that the demonstration will continue “until the regime is gone.”

The demonstrations have evolved from the early days following Ms. Amini’s death, according to Gissou Nia, a human rights attorney who chairs the board of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center located in the United States.

The extremist laws that require the hijab and set limitations on women’s rights to marriage, divorce, custody, and inheritance remain in force, she said, adding that the demonstrations are now focused on attacking the entire system.

Rights organizations say that since the protests started, at least 400 people have died, including 50 minors, and the UN reports that 14,000 people have been detained. According to the government, at least 30 security personnel have died.

In September, the United States imposed sanctions on the morality police.

Even the World Cup in Qatar was marred by tensions as Iranian players attempted to strike a balance between the demands of protesters to use their platform and the government’s intolerance of dissent. Before the team’s first game, they chose not to sing the Iranian national anthem, but a few days later, they looked to grudgingly go through the motions before another game.

By Yimeng CHEN

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