Iran suspends morality police that have sparked massive protests

TIran’s “morality police” operations have all but ceased after months of widespread anti-government protests over the death of a young woman in her custody, a senior official said.

The police unit, officially dubbed the Guidance Patrol, has for years tracked key intersections and thoroughfares in Iranian cities, arresting those they believe are violating the Islamic Republic’s strict religious dress codes -September over the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, who died in Sept Coma fell after she was arrested for her clothes.

“The Guidance Patrol has nothing to do with the judiciary; it was suspended by the same institution that established it in the past,” Iran’s semi-official Labor News Agency reported, citing Chief Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Continue reading: What you should know about the Iranian protests over the death of Mahsa Amini

The comments, which do not amount to an official dissolution of unity, follow deadly riots and protests that have challenged Iran’s theocratic leadership on a scale not seen since it took power after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Montazeri’s statement is unlikely to represent a major shift in policy, and did not address protesters’ calls for the mandatory religious dress code to be scrapped altogether or to address a broad list of grievances related to civil liberties, governance and the rule of law .

As regulations governing women’s dress still exist, the abolition of the Guidance Patrol also raises questions about how the rules will be enforced and whether an alternative system will emerge.

“Prudent solution”

In a sign that regulation of public life won’t necessarily be relaxed, Montazeri said that “of course, the judiciary will continue to monitor behavior in the community.”

In separate comments published in the moderate Shargh newspaper on Saturday, Montazeri said the judiciary was working on a draft of changes to how laws “relating to chastity and hijab” should be enforced, referring to the Arabic word , used to describe religious codes of modesty.

“After the recent events, the relevant bodies are looking for a prudent solution,” he said, adding that the Iranian Parliament and the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution plan to make a decision on how to proceed within 15 days.

According to human rights groups, more than 400 people, including many children, were killed by security forces during the protests. The United Nations said last month that so far more than 14,000 people have been arrested for their participation and many are charged with serious crimes that carry the death penalty.

Continue reading: What the success of the women-led protests tells us about Iran’s future

Since 2006, green and white Guidance Patrol minivans have regularly driven through busy streets, particularly during the summer months, arresting passers-by, mostly young women, who are believed to be inappropriately dressed.

Amini’s death sparked a public outcry, and many women began publicly avoiding or destroying the headscarf that had been mandatory since childhood. In the more liberal northern enclaves of Tehran, many women are now seen in public without covering their heads.

Iranian officials have repeatedly accused foreign countries, including the US, of inciting the unrest and have vowed to continue their crackdown on protesters.

Last month, the United Nations announced it would probe Iran for human rights abuses and called on the Islamic Republic to immediately end its attacks on protesters.

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