The Return of the Morality Police


On September 13, 2022, a young woman on vacation in Tehranwas arrested by Iranian authorities of the Guidance Patrol (Persian: گشت ارشاد,romanized: gašt-e eršâd) or ‘morality police.’ A government force that takes tothe streets in order to ensure the following of proper Islamic behavior amongthe general populace, especially the enforcement of modesty standards forwomen. The woman was arrested for not properly following the public dress code.The patrol took the young woman into custody and drove her to the local policestation, informing her brother that she would be released after a one-hourclass for ‘re-education’.

On September 16, 2022, the young woman, Mahsa Amini, waspronounced dead at a hospital in Tehran. The police issued a statement that shehad died from a heart attack. Bruises on her body and, swelling on her face,and the loss of brain function did not conform to their story. Eye witnessreports from other detained women indicated she had been savagely beaten in thestation. Her brother was prevented from taking pictures in the hospital room. [i]

Since that day, uncountable numbers of brave women in Tehranand across Iran have taken to the streets to protest the harsh enforcement ofreligious doctrine pushed by the old bearded clerics of the regime and theirself-righteous agents on the streets.

According to the organization Human Rights Activists in Iran(HRAI), a non-political/non-profit founded in 2005, at least 522 people hadbeen killed by the end of 2022, and some 20000 protesters arrested. In December2022, it was reported that the morality police would be disbanded, a seeminglyimmense victory for the protestors even as violent crackdowns continued.However that was not the end of the story. Protestors continued to take to thestreets against the oppressive theocratic regime and regime forces continued tobeat, arrest, and kill protestors.

Then, in July 2023, it was announced that the moralitypolice was being reintroduced to the streets and very quickly reports came inthat women were being humiliated by the morality police and courts, includingdeclaring opposition to the hijab a sign of mental illness and mandatingpsychological evaluation for those who refuse it. Activists and other prominentwomen have been sentenced to attend psychological meetings, banned from usingthe internet, and forced to provide labor in government buildings.

The morality police is back on the streets, and the regimeitself is still relatively popular and accepted, because still many Iranianagree with their theocratic rule and their oppressive misogynistic positions.The protestors are not the majority of Iranian society and though individualincidents may generate broad support, the Iranian regime is not on the edge.Even this week a woman was arrested and jailed over her hijab. But she was notfirst confronted by the morality police. Instead, as is common, a vigilantemore than a week before had confronted the woman on the street for notcorrectly wearing her head-covering. Several days later the vigilante, aretired military member, returned with a cohort of active duty IRGC forces anddetained the woman.[ii] Suchan oppressive mentality has come to the Iranian people from the bottom up asmuch as from the top down. The protest movement that has been sustained for 11months is ample proof that there is bottom up support for change. However,without political support at the top, change will be painfully slow andexceptionally vulnerable.




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