Some Western media outlets are facing backlash from Iranian activists over headlines printed Sunday saying that Iran was abolishing its “morality police.”
The news – an interpretation of a comment by an Iranian official during a press conference – turned out to be anything but clear cut. The country’s state media has since denied it. Many Iranian anti-government activists now feat it will distract from three days of major strikes around the country.
So what happened?
Iran’s Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, when asked over the weekend about why the country’s “morality police,” or Gasht-e Irshad, had become inactive, replied: “The morality police had nothing to do with the judiciary, and the same institution that established it has now shut it down.”
He added that “the judiciary will continue to supervise social behaviors.”
The question reflected the experience of many Iranians who say they have not seen the morality police on the streets since anti-government protests across the country began in mid-September. They were triggered by the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini while in the custody of the morality police after she was arrested for allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly.
This branch of the police is responsible for enforcing Iran’s mandatory headscarf law and other strict measures that disproportionately affect women.