Ongoing pro-civil liberties protests have motivated hardline Iranian authorities to disband the country’s ‘morality militia.’
Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, Iran’s Attorney General made the announcement on Saturday, telling ISNA news, “morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary and have been abolished.”
The Gasht-e-Ershad (Guidance Patrol), Iran’s iron-fisted headscarf head-hunters, were established in 2006 under “death-to-Israel” Islamist, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad’s uncivil militia would patrol streets, particularly in the hotter months, pulling people into vans; arresting anyone they considered to be in breach of Iran’s Islamic dress codes.
The obligatory hijab rule has been in place since 1983.
According to Islamic Iranian law, “The hijab must consist of a long and loose dress. Be in muted colours, and worn over trousers with a similarly plain headscarf that covers all hair, and shoulders. A long black veil covering from head to toe is preferable.”
Australian News provider, SBS recalled, the controversial covering remains a “highly sensitive issue in a country where [those who cling to Islamic law] insist the hijab should be compulsory; and reformists advocate individual choice.”
While Iran’s morality militia appear to be out of a job, Iranian officials are yet to ditch the hardcore head-covering law.
However, Montazeri, SBS said, is working with parliament, and the judiciary to review the 1983 rule.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi is also now apparently on board.
Reasserting Islamic law as the foundation of the Iranian theocratic Republic, he stated, “there are methods of implementing the constitution that can be flexible.”
His comments suggest the extent to which the regime was rocked by the months-long pro-civil liberties demonstrations.
This is a drastic change of tune for the Iranian President, who, in June, ordered the “strict enforcement of the hijab law.”
For which, Raisi blamed the United States, claiming “world arrogance” was forcing his hand.
This, Iran International recounted, despite ‘there being little evidence of any foreign conspiracy,’ to justify the crackdown, other than free Iranians living in the West, protesting both the headscarf headhunting and the hijab rule.
Raisi’s strict enforcement of the Hajib ended in mass protests, which ignited into a full-blown anti-regime movement following the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested by Iran’s morality police on September 13.
Headscarf head-hunters took Amini down for not complying with Raisi’s hard-line hijab state directive.
The 22-year-old was allegedly beaten by the proxy authorities, causing massive damage to her internal organs, and leading to her body’s eventual shutdown.
Delivering a caveat to Montazeri’s announcement, German public news broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), warned against reading too much into the rhetoric.
Quoting the University of Sussex’s International Relations professor, Kamran Matin, DW explained, “Such an announcement should really be announced by that institution and that hasn’t happened yet. We have to treat this with caution.”
This is because, Matin added, “the Government is pursuing two policies simultaneously: on the one hand it has increased a crackdown issuing death sentences against protestors, increasing military presence in areas while signalling to being flexible with Islamic law.” (WATCH)
Matin labelled the protests a victory, pointing to how they have motivated the Islamic regime to at least look at making “concessions” to protesters. Something, he said, the regime is not used to doing.
The Sussex professor’s caveat is supported by a November 28 report from ISNA (Iranian Student News Agency) covering Nasser Kanaani – spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry – stating the country “won’t cooperate with the UNHRC’s fact-finding mission.“
Kanaani asserted Iran had formed a human rights investigation committee of their own, then proceeded to ramble on about Israel, accusing the Zionist regime of making ‘false accusations,’ saying, “if Iran does something, it is brave enough to take responsibility for it (unlike Israel).”
Notably, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister denied the severity of the pro-civil liberties protests on Twitter, telling the European Union to stuff its “superfluous sanctions,” because they were “an unconstructive act out of miscalculation, based on widespread disinformation.”
Amir-Abdollahian defended mass arrests and possible mass executions, declaring, “riots and vandalism are not tolerated anywhere; Iran is no exception.”
While Montazeri’s announcement is good news, the regime’s concessions to protesters are not solid proof the iron-fisted Islamic grip on the country is slipping.
Iranian authorities are motivated by power, and political survival, not the socio-political concerns of protesters.
The regime, who fears revolution, knows this isn’t a revolution.
The concessions are nothing more than damage control. A response to President Raisi’s bad political manoeuvring.
His hard-line hajib enforcement created a revolutionary movement, and his government is only fermenting that movement if he doesn’t open a valve to release the pressure.
Optics in politics matter. Appearance trumps substance, even in Islamic Iran.
Whether Iran’s morality militia stays disbanded and isn’t resurrected in some other more official format, remains to be seen.
Given the track record of Iran’s “supreme” rulers and their obvious reluctance to reform Mohammad-inspired anti-women laws, headscarf headhunting is almost certain to resume.