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Iran: “women no longer let it go” in the face of growing repression by the morality police – FRANCE 24


Repression by the morality police increased with the rise to power of the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raissi. Cornered by the economic crisis, the Iranian population, caught in a vice, expresses its anger in the street since the death, Friday, of a young woman arrested for her dress and died three days later. “The straw that broke the camel’s back”. This is how Azadeh Kian, professor of political science at Paris VII Diderot University and specialist in Iran, describes the “suspicious” death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian girl who fell into a coma after her arrest by the morality police and died on September 16 in a hospital in Tehran. knees. The rallies spread to fifteen cities, also reaching the capital and its universities. In Tehran in particular, protesters blocked streets, threw stones at security forces, set fire to police vehicles and garbage cans, and chanted anti-government slogans, such as “Death to Khamenei [le guide suprême]”For Azadeh Kian, the death of Mahsa Amini is a catalyst. The anger that has taken hold of the Iranian street brings other demands: “Many of the young people who take part in these demonstrations are unemployed, women are among most affected by poverty. Today we have the impression that the Iranians can no longer breathe. They have been hit hard by the economic crisis and can no longer bear being given orders”. Iran’s Islamic law, which is based on a strict interpretation of Sharia, and the morality police – officially known as the Gasht-e Ershad, or “orientation patrol” – are responsible for ensuring compliance with this dress law. However, no precise definition of a “correct” wearing of the veil is advanced, which leaves this power to the discretion of the authorities. According to the declarations of religious dignitaries and Iranian leaders, it has become customary to prohibit women from wearing short coats above the knee, tight trousers and jeans with holes, as well as brightly colored outfits. “The Islamic Republic has made the veil sacred from its inception. It was Ayatollah Khomeini himself who announced that the women’s veil represented the blood of the martyrs”, specifies Azadeh Kian. From then on, the authorities of the country fell into their own trap. By presenting the veil as the honor of the Islamic Republic, they have made it a political object. Today, they find themselves confronted with a young generation questioning this imposed dress code. “It is not surprising to note that the response of the authorities is increasingly stronger and more and more repressive”, remarks Azadeh Kian. Ayatollah Khomeini had to take action because these Hezbollah brigades were attacking women individually and this could lead to abuses, such as throwing acid in the face,” explains Azadeh Kian. ahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), the Ghast-e-Ershad took on a more particular importance, with an increased presence of their white and green vans on the boulevards and in front of the shopping malls of the major Iranian urban centers, hunting down the “evil- veiled”. The device is prowled: once filled, the trucks of Gahst-e Ershad take the direction of a police station where the young women arrested are imprisoned while their parents come to pick them up with “descent” outfits. But at the same time, explains Azadeh Kian, “women are becoming more and more vindictive. They no longer allow themselves to be done and show their hair in disagreement with the compulsory wearing of the veil in Iran”. It is quite common to come across in Iran, especially in the cities, undone veils or large locks protruding from the forehead, transparent fabrics, or even no veil at all. We also speak with irony of “convertible veil” that young women hasten to put back in place at the sight of the morality police. users of the presence of these brigades on their route. Under the era of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and Hassan Rouhani (2013-2021), two moderate presidents, it was not uncommon to see these brigades mocked, reviled or even insulted. “The difference is also that today, everything is filmed and sent on social networks. And this new generation is very aware of its power in the face of these repressive brigades”, recalls Azadeh Kian. Carte blanche to repression “10 years ago, we could discuss with these people”, observes Azadeh Kian. But times have changed. “President Raissi has given carte blanche to this police, under the authority of the Ministry of the Interior, to strike, beat and enforce these laws at all costs by the population”. For the researcher, the repression of the Gasht-e Ershad has clearly increased in 2021 with the coming to power of this ultra-conservative head of state. It is true that in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the president’s room for maneuver is limited. However, from one government to another, differences in social policies, particularly in the area of ​​mores, can be felt. One year after taking office, Ebrahim Raissi, renowned for his austerity and qualified as a traditionalist on the plan of manners, begins to print its paw. “Any opposition is repressed. See the wave of arrests of Iranian filmmakers like Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof this summer”, stresses Azadeh Kian. repression of morals. Even among parliamentarians, there are calls to curb the action of the Gasht-e Ershad.”I believe that due to the ineffectiveness of the Gasht-e Ershad in understanding the culture of hijab, this unit should be removed, so that the children of this country are not afraid when they come across this force,” said parliamentarian Moeenoddin Saeedi. Another deputy, Jalal Rashidi Koochi, quoted by the ISNA agency, estimated that this police “causes damage to the country”. “In order to avoid the repetition of such cases, the methods used by these orientation patrols (…) should be reviewed”, affirmed for his part the conservative Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, speaker of Parliament. According to the Organization for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – an influential organization affiliated with the Iranian state – “the arrest and prosecution of people who wear their headscarves incorrectly must stop as this has the effect of increase social tensions. The law must be amended so that this is only considered an offence.” Currently, young women arrested can face up to three months in prison.



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