Iran to dismantle the morality police, but it is too early to talk about the “softening of Islamic norms” 

By abolishing the morality police, Tehran seeks to consolidate the country, not make concessions to the liberals.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

It would appear that the months-long demonstrations that some Iranians have been holding “against the dictatorship and for women’s rights” have produced some consequences. On September 14, officials from Tehran’s vice police apprehended Makhsa Amini, age 22, for “incorrectly wearing a headscarf.” However, according to the surveillance video that was made public, the girl had a heart attack when she was at the police station, and she passed just two days later. 

The liberals believe that Makhsa was murdered, while the conservatives believe that an accident occurred, which was then deftly used by the Western influence network. In any case, the nationwide protests that broke out were the bloodiest and greatest in recent memory. 

And now, in response to disquiet among the people, the Islamic Republic has decided to do away with this country’s morality police (strictly speaking, it has several names – “religious police”, “educational patrol”, etc.). On the other hand, there has been no discussion about revising the Islamic system itself or doing away with the requirement that women wear hijabs. In addition to religious patrols, numerous other special services and paramilitary formations with related functionality are still present in the nation. The most well-known is the IRGC, which stands for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iran’s Vice Police

Since the Islamic Revolution took place in Iran in 1979, the Iranian Vice Police, commonly referred to as the Gasht-e Ershad (which translates to “Guiding Patrols”), have been in the country in one form or another ever since. In the middle of the 2000s, the ministry’s monitoring unit for the “culture of modesty” was split into its distinct organisational structure so it could more effectively carry out its mission. In addition to ensuring that women cover their heads in public areas with scarves and wear clothing that covers their bodies, one of the primary responsibilities of the Mentor Patrols is to keep an eye on the clothing and haircuts that men wear. Sanctions were imposed on the Iranian vice police by the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom shortly after the beginning of the fall protests.

Hijab requirements to be reviewed

According to reports in the media, the government of Iran has pledged to investigate the possibility of changing the law that mandates the hijab to be worn by all women in the country. One of the most important requests that protesters in Iran have been making for several years now is that the government repeal the law that states women are forbidden from appearing in public areas with their heads uncovered, or they risk being fined and subjected to other forms of punishment.

On December 4, Iran’s Attorney General Mohammed Jafar Montazeri claimed that nationwide protests and riots preceded the decision on the hijab. He said this during a “discussion about jihad.” The Iranian judiciary will continue to “watch the conduct of society” notwithstanding the dissolution of the department, he added.

According to Montazeri, the Iranian parliament and judiciary debated the necessity of altering the law regarding the hijab at the end of November. According to him, the outcomes of these talks might be disclosed “within a few weeks.”

Islamic standards are incorporated in the Iranian constitution, according to President Ibrahim Raisi, but “there are flexible ways to execute the constitution.”

Reforms ahead in Iran

At the same time, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, has recently called for a revolutionary reconstruction of the country’s cultural system. Again, in the Oriental tradition, his words were fairly ambiguous. He added that in some areas, the national culture strategy “shows weakness.”

It is only partially apparent what is being referred to here. Iran, like any other country, is not a monolith; within its elite, there are various groups with varied ideological tastes. On the other hand, Iran is not a dictatorship. There are at least three of them: supporters of the “Islamic way” (who are actually centred on the ayatollah); furthermore, Iranian nationalists are a part of the military and secular authorities in Iran, and they are closer to the “Ataturk model” from neighbouring Turkey. The “Ataturk model” combines secular reforms with the construction of a powerful national state, which was first implemented approximately 90 years ago in Turkey. And the third group is the most vulnerable, but they keep some of the people’s hopes alive, and they are the pro-Western liberals. A disproportionate number of them are among young individuals who are the same age as Mahsa Amini before she passed away.

And it is evident that, at the very least, on the topic of “facilitating the hijab,” the final two clans are able to come to a situational alliance against the first clan, which results in certain changes in the political climate within the country.

Therefore, the ayatollah’s remarks regarding the “reconstruction of culture” cannot be equated with Gorbachev’s perestroika. These reforms are more gradual and controlled and are modelled after Deng Xiaoping’s China when the nation abandoned the most extreme excesses of recent “war communism” while at the same time retaining its order and political structure, which is referred to as the “lifting of the iron curtain.”


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