Iran’s Morality Police Resumes Crackdown on Women Refusing to Wear Hijab in Public

Morality Police in Iran Resume Public Patrols to Enforce Islamic Dress Code

Iran’s morality police, also known as the Guidance Patrol, are making a return to enforcing the country’s strict Islamic dress code, signaling an escalation in the crackdown against women who refuse to wear the mandatory headscarf, or hijab, in public. The patrols had seemingly slowed down after mass protests erupted last September following the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in custody. Amini was detained for an alleged dress code violation and activists claimed she was beaten. The protests that followed her death became a larger display of discontent against the conservative rulers of Iran.

According to Saeid Montazer-al-Mahdi, spokesman for Iran’s Law Enforcement Command, the morality police will resume patrols on foot and by car starting Monday. Montazer-al-Mahdi stated that officers will issue warnings to those who violate social norms by wearing clothes that are considered unacceptable. If the warning is ignored, the police will take legal action, although specifics were not provided.

After Amini’s death, many women stopped wearing the hijab and even burned them at rallies. The government responded to the widespread protests with heavy-handed tactics, reportedly resulting in hundreds of deaths and over 20,000 arrests. However, the true number of detentions and their outcomes remain unknown due to censorship and reporting limitations in Iran.

In recent months, Iranian authorities have made efforts to increase the enforcement of the strict dress code. In April, the police chief announced plans to install surveillance cameras to identify women without headscarves, and the deputy attorney general warned that individuals encouraging women to remove their veils would face charges.

The decision to resume the patrols of the morality police, along with these prior announcements, appears to be part of a broader strategy by Iranian officials to reassert their authority. Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at London-based think tank Chatham House, believes that the return of the morality police reflects a shift towards a stricter approach in response to the protests.

Vakil noted that after Amini’s death, the enforcement of conservative dress codes had relaxed, even in urban areas beyond liberal pockets. However, it is unclear how much power the authorities will grant the morality police in enforcing the dress codes going forward.

Since 1983, Iranian law has required all women to wear a headscarf in public. The Guidance Patrol, established in the 1990s, has intermittently enforced violations of the dress code. Following Amini’s death, the United States, the European Union, and Britain imposed sanctions on the force, holding them responsible, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.

In conclusion, the resumption of the morality police’s patrols in Iran indicates a renewed effort to enforce the strict Islamic dress code, particularly regarding the headscarf. The move comes after widespread protests prompted by the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained for an alleged dress code violation. Efforts to quash the unrest led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of arrests. The Iranian authorities have been increasing their enforcement of the dress code, and the return of the morality police is seen as a further step in regaining control after the protests. The extent of the power granted to the morality police moving forward remains uncertain.