Illustration by Ahmed Bilal

Has Iran abolished the morality police?

The Iranian government recently announced the questionable dissolution of the “Morality Police”; what does this mean for the country?

Earlier this month, Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced the suspension of what has come to be known as the “Morality Police.” While Montazeri quickly added that the judiciary will continue to monitor public conduct, the announcement was a clear acknowledgement of the demonstrations and protests since the death of Mahsa Jina Amini. Upon questioning, Montazeri explained: “The morality police has nothing to do with the judiciary, and it was disbanded from the same place it was established in the beginning.”
Among the multitude of things left unclear from the announcement was whether the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, approved of the decision and what this means for women who appear in public without the mandatory headscarf. That, coupled with the silence from the rest of the government on the topic, is cause for concern. Is the morality police really abolished, or was this a stunt to distract protestors?
Article 638 of the Iranian Islamic Penal Code, approved in 1983, says: “Anyone in public places and roads who openly commits a haram (sinful) act, in addition to the punishment provided for the act, shall be sentenced to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes; if he/she commits an act that is not punishable but harms public modesty, they shall only be sentenced to 10 days to two months’ imprisonment or up to 74 lashes.”
One day after the announcement, the manager of a chain store in Hamedan was summoned for accepting "women with bad hijab." Similar incidents of shops being shut down because of ‘immodest’ hijabs have been reported since. Iranian and global activists have now begun questioning the validity of the supposed dissolution of the morality police, claiming that “reports about the abolition of Iran’s morality police have circulated “many times in the past,” including before this year’s protests.”
While protests started off with the hijab, their main aim is now to see the end of the dictator’s regime. Barbara Slavin, director of the Future of Iran Initiative at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington, remarks, “I doubt it will impact the protestors who want to see an end to the clerical-led regime, not just to be able to wear what they want.” The regime is aware of such connotations, and speculations suggest the so-called abolition of the Morality Police is only a concession. A concession that is meant to shut the demonstrations down while keeping in place the sharia law, the root of the hijab laws.
With or without morality police patrols, although they still roam the streets of Iran under different names, while some may celebrate Montazeri’s announcement as a victory, the announcement seems vague, not to mention seemingly unsupported by the rest of the government, including the police that controls the patrols.
Shanzae Ashar Siddiqi is News Editor. Email her at
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