Confusion over the standing of Iran’s morality police continues after state media gave different reports over the weekend. But more Iranian women have appeared in public without the required head covering hijab as enforcement of the policy has been reduced.
The morality police were established in 2005. The group oversees the enforcement of Iran’s restrictions on behavior and clothing in public. Women are required to wear the hijab and loose-fitting clothes.
The decreased enforcement might be a sign that Iran’s leadership is thinking about making changes to reduce anti-government protests. The protests began after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September. She died while being held by the morality police for violating the country’s Islamic dress rules.
A group called Human Rights Activists in Iran has been following protests around the country. It said the government’s actions have resulted in 471 deaths during the protests. And more than 18,200 people have been arrested.
On Saturday, Iran’s semi-official news agency ISNA reported that the government’s chief lawyer said the morality police “had been closed.” The official, Mohamed Jafar Montazeri, told the news agency that the government was also reviewing the hijab law without giving details.
But late Sunday, state media Al-Alam issued a report suggesting Montazeri’s comments had been misunderstood. It said that no official has confirmed the closing of the morality police.
The conservative SNN.ir news website also said the morality police were not closed. But it added that the way the police do their job might change. The news site is close to the Basij, a security force under the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which protects Iran’s religious leaders.
Officials have avoided comment on the police. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer when reporters in Belgrade asked him about Montazeri’s statement.
In recent weeks, fewer morality police officers have been seen in Iranian cities. In the capital of Tehran, more women have been walking the city’s streets without wearing the hijab. At times, some even walk past anti-riot police and Basiji forces.
Ali Alfoneh is an expert at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He said, ’’For the time being, rather than changing the hijab law, the Islamic Republic will most likely not enforce the law, in order to reduce tension with society.”
I’m Andrew Smith.
Jack Jeffery wrote this story for the Associated Press. Andrew Smith adapted this story for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
confusion -n. lack of clearness or understanding about what the true situation is
loose -adj. not tight; not tightly connected
review -v. to examine or consider again
tension -n. worry and fear of conflict between people
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