Iran’s morality police have terrorized women for decades. Who are they?

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Abu Dhabi, UAE

A young Iranian woman was plucked from the streets of Tehran by the country’s notorious morality police and taken to a “re-education center” for modesty lessons last week. Three days later, he was dead.

The government has vehemently denied responsibility for the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, but the news has nonetheless galvanized thousands of Iranian women who have faced the wrath of the Islamic Republic’s morality enforcers for decades.

Amini’s story has brought Iran’s disciplinary apparatus back into the spotlight, raising questions about the accountability and impunity of the country’s clerical elite.

“It would be difficult to find an average Iranian woman or an average family that does not have a history of interaction [the morality police and re-education centers]”said Tara Sepehri Far, senior researcher in the Middle East and North Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “This is how they are present.”

The morality police is a law enforcement force with power, weapons and access to detention centers, he said. They also have control over the newly created “re-education centers”.

The centers act as detention facilities where women – and sometimes men – are detained for not complying with the state’s modesty rules. Inside the facility, detainees are given classes on Islam and the importance of the hijab (or headscarf), then forced to sign a pledge to abide by state clothing regulations before being released.

The first of these facilities opened in 2019, said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran, adding that “since their creation, which has no basis in any law, the agents of these centers have been arbitrarily arrested. countless women with the intention of not complying with the state’s forced hijab.”

“Then they treat women as criminals[s]booked for their offence, photographed and forced to take a class on how to wear the proper hijab and Islamic morals,” he added.

Iran dictated how women should dress long before the establishment of the current Islamic Republic. In 1936, Western ruler Reza Shah banned all veils and headscarves in an effort to modernize the country. Many women resisted it. Then the Islamic regime that overthrew the Shah’s Pahlavi dynasty made the hijab compulsory in 1979, but the rule was not written down until 1983.

A task force with all the powers of a law enforcement agency, the morality police is responsible for ensuring that the rules are followed.

A number of anti-hijab movements emerge in Iran over the years, often resulting in waves of arrests and harassment. These include 2017’s “Girls of Revolution Street,” as well as this year’s brief social media protests on the country’s National Hijab and Chastity Day, which is held annually on July 12 to promote the veil.

But there have been disagreements on the subject of the mandatory hijab, both among citizens and within the administration.

A survey conducted in 2018 by a research center linked to the parliament showed that the number of people who believe that the government should fill the gap has decreased. And a 2014 report by the Iranian Students News Agency showed a 15% increase in those who believed the hijab was not compulsory.

There has also been a rhetorical shift among the country’s leaders, calling for “education” and “correction” as opposed to the forceful imposition of Islamic values, says researcher Sepehri Far.

Some say Iran is slowly approaching tipping point as the government grows increasingly uneasy about a crippled economy and rising inflation caused by US sanctions.

Amini’s death seems to unite Iranians of different mindsets, Sepehri Far says, adding that criticism of the incident comes not only from opponents of the regime, but also from non-dissident citizens, as well as those close to power.

Thousands of people took to the streets across Iran on Tuesday night, according to witnesses and social media footage.

Videos on social media showed a woman cutting her hair in protest as they chanted “death to the dictator” in Kerman province in southeastern Iran. In other parts of the country, protesters chanted “We are children of war, come and fight, we will fight” and “death to Khamenei”.

“This time the protesters are not only demanding justice for Mahsa Amini,” said Ghaemi. “For women’s rights, for their civil and human rights, they also ask for a life without religious dictatorship.”

While it is believed that the regime may feel weak, some question whether the current movement will expand or simply weaken in the face of state repression.

“Not only were these protests violently suppressed [on] and content every time, but there is no leadership,” said Tara Kangarlou, author of “The Heartbeat of Iran,” who grew up under the watchful eye of the morality police.

“Growing up as teenagers, we would make sure to avoid it[ed] streets where we knew the vans of the morality police would be parked [on] on the weekend,” Kangarlou said.

He says young Iranians have evolved within the “oppressive system” to live their lives, but “the average Iranian is fed up.”

Tunisia’s anti-terrorist police have arrested the former leader

Tunisia’s anti-terrorist police detained former prime minister Ali Laarayedh and a senior figure in the opposition Ennahda party for a day following an investigation into allegations they sent jihadists to Syria, lawyers told Reuters on Tuesday. In the same case, the police temporarily postponed the hearing of Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Tunisian opposition and the president of the dissolved parliament.

  • Background: Last month, several former security officials and two Ennahda members were arrested on charges related to Tunisians traveling abroad for jihad. Security and official sources estimated that about 6,000 Tunisians traveled to Syria and Iraq in the past decade to join jihadist groups, including ISIS. Many died there while others fled and returned to Tunisia.
  • Why it matters: Ennahda denies the terrorism charges, calling the accusations a political attack against an enemy of President Kais Saied. Ghannouchi, 81, has accused Saied of an undemocratic coup since seizing most of his powers last summer, shutting down parliament and moving to rule by decree, powers he has largely formalized under a new constitution approved in a July referendum.

Saudi Arabia has purchased a pair of SpaceX astronaut seats

Saudi Arabia plans to launch two astronauts to the International Space Station in a space capsule aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX, according to a Reuters report.

  • Background: People familiar with the deal told Reuters the agreement was signed privately earlier this year with Houston-based Axiom Space, which organizes private missions to US spaceships for researchers and tourists. Saudi astronauts will ride SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule to the space station for a roughly week-long stay early next year.
  • Why it matters: Saudi astronauts will be the first from their country to travel into space in a private spacecraft. Saudi Arabia will also become the latest Gulf nation to forge ties with private US space companies, as key players in diplomacy grow in an area long dominated by government agencies such as NASA.

The leaders of Turkey and Israel have held their first meeting in 15 years

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Lapid’s office said. The meeting was the first face-to-face conversation between the top leaders of the two countries since 2008.

  • Background: “I had a productive meeting with @RTEdogan yesterday,” Lapid tweeted, “the first between the President of Turkey and the Prime Minister of Israel in almost 15 years”. Lapid added that the relations between the two countries are “key to the stability of the region” and that they bring “obvious benefits for both our countries”.
  • Why it matters: Relations between Israel and Turkey were strained for many years, especially over the Palestinian cause. But ties have warmed recently, and in August the countries said they would restore full diplomatic ties and re-appoint ambassadors.

Egypt: #Salah

Egyptian soccer star Mo Salah’s tribute to Queen Elizabeth has sparked heated debate among his countrymen on social media.

The Liverpool player tweeted a photo of the monarch on Monday, announcing his death with the message: “My thoughts are with the Royal Family on this historic and emotional day.” Some of his Egyptian fans were less enthusiastic, criticizing his condolences to the monarchy of a country with a controversial colonial past.

Multiple users he replied with pictures Four years after the Suez Crisis of 1956 saw the Queen take the throne and a joint Israeli-British-French invasion of Egypt to reclaim the Suez Canal after it had been nationalized. Another user He asked Salah to read the history of the Queen in the Arab world. “Brother, do you know what this woman’s empire did to our country or I will let you know” the greeted another.

Other users, however, jumped to Salah’s defense, saying the hit was not justified. Egyptian sports journalist Omar Elbanouby tweeted: “Hands off Mohammed Salah… he’s a professional footballer… not a political activist.”

Sudanese writer Mohammed Abo Zaco has called some of Salah’s critics hypocrisy, noting that it is apparently OK for Arabs to patronize British football clubs and drive British cars, but not to salute the Queen, who was killed on Monday.

European football clubs are popular in the Arab world, and some are owned by regional governments, including Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Salah lives in the UK.

By Mohammed Abdelbary

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk said he plans to bring satellite internet services to Iran, where online access is severely restricted by the government. Musk has tweeted that his company Starlink will apply for a sanctions waiver to provide internet services to Iranians. US sanctions restrict companies from doing business in Iran. Western social media sites are blocked in Iran and the government regularly restricts Internet access to prevent political mobilization.