Iran’s morality police return to the streets after protests in new campaign to enforce Islamic dress

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian authorities on Sunday announced a new campaign to force women to wear Islamic headscarves and vice versa returned to the streets 10 months after the death of a woman in their custody sparked nationwide protests.

The morality police had largely withdrawn after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini last September as authorities struggled to contain mass protests calling for the overthrow of the theocracy that has ruled Iran for more than four years. decades.

Protests largely died down earlier this year following a heavy crackdown in which more than 500 protesters were killed and nearly 20,000 detained. But many women continued to wear the official dress code, especially in the capital, Tehran, and other cities.

The vice police were only rarely seen patrolling the streets, and in December there were even reports – later denied – that they had been disbanded.

Authorities have insisted throughout the crisis that the rules have not changed. Iran’s clerical leaders see the hijab as a key pillar of the Islamic revolution that brought them to power, and see more casual dress as a sign of Western decadence.

On Sunday, Gen. Saeed Montazerolmahdi, a police spokesman, said the vice squad would resume notifying and then detaining women not wearing hijab in public. In Tehran, the men and women of the morality police could be seen patrolling the streets in marked vans.

The battle for the hijab became a powerful rallying cry last fall, with women playing a prominent role in the protests. The protests quickly turned into calls for the overthrow of Iran’s clerical leaders, whom the mostly young protesters accuse of being corrupt, repressive and out of touch. The Iranian government blamed the protests on a foreign conspiracy, without providing evidence.

Several Iranian celebrities joined the protests, including prominent directors and actors from the country’s famous film industry. Several Iranian actresses have been arrested after appearing in public without the hijab or expressing support for the protests.

In the most recent case, actress Azadeh Samadi was banned from social media and was ordered by a court to undergo psychological treatment for “antisocial personality disorder” after reporting to funeral two months ago, wearing a cap on her head.

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