Protests in Iran: The authorities decide to abolish the vice squad

Protests in Iran: The authorities decide to abolish the vice squad

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The vice squad has always been controversial in Iran

Iranian prosecutor Mohammad Jaafar Montazeri has announced the abolition of vice squads, known as “guide patrols,” to monitor women’s compliance with the headscarf on the streets.

Montazeri said in a press conference that “the vice squad has nothing to do with the judiciary. It was abolished.”

Popular protests have rocked Iran since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was arrested for not complying with the hijab.

BBC Persian Service journalist Siavash Ardalan says disbanding the vice squad does not mean changing the headscarf law.

He expected protesters to see the move as insufficient and late, adding that they were angered by many issues, including poverty and corruption, and now sense “a weakness in the system”.

The Vice Police was set up during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration to spread the culture of “chastity and the veil,” and patrols began in 2006.

The announcement of its dissolution came a day after Montazeri said that “Parliament and the judiciary are together examining the possibility of changing the law requiring women to cover their heads.”

Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi said in a televised statement on Saturday, “The foundations of the Islamic Republic of Iran are laid down in the constitution, but there are flexible methods of implementing the principles of the constitution.”

The veil became mandatory in Iran four years after the fall of the monarchy loyal to the United States and the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

For 15 years, the vice squad has been warning women about their arrest. The lead patrols usually consist of men in green uniforms and women in black chadors.

The role of this police force has evolved but has always been a subject of controversy, even among presidential candidates.

And Iranian women’s attire gradually changed, especially during the tenure of former President Hassan Rouhani, when it became common to see women in tight pants and colorful veils.

In July of this year, however, the current President Raisi called for the mobilization of “all state institutions to implement the headscarf law”.

At the time, Raisi accused “the enemies of Iran and the enemies of Islam of targeting society’s cultural and religious values ​​and spreading obscenities.”

Despite these statements, many women continued to circumvent the law by loosening their veils over their shoulders or wearing tight pants, especially in large cities.

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s rival, also uses the vice squad to monitor veil observance and other social behaviors. However, those police forces have been sidelined since 2016 in an attempt by the country’s authorities to change its puritanical image.

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