ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 145

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Iranians in Iraq put little stock in move to dissolve morality police

Kurds who fled country say protesters don’t only want freedom from headscarf, but also abolishment of regime in Tehran, though views elsewhere mixed

People burn an Iranian national flag during a demonstration denouncing the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini -- who died while in the custody of Iranian authorities -- by Iraqi and Iranian Kurds outside the UN offices in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on September 24, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)
People burn an Iranian national flag during a demonstration denouncing the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini -- who died while in the custody of Iranian authorities -- by Iraqi and Iranian Kurds outside the UN offices in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on September 24, 2022. (Safin Hamed/AFP)

ERBIL, Iraq — Iranians in Iraq expressed skepticism at reports Sunday that Tehran has abolished its feared morality police, a force indelibly associated with months of protests in the Islamic republic.

Iran’s morality police in mid-September arrested young Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaching the country’s strict dress code for women, and she subsequently died in their custody, triggering ongoing protests.

Late Saturday, Iran’s attorney general said that the force had “been abolished.”

But the move received short shrift in Iraqi Kurdistan, where Iranian opposition groups have lately been the target of cross-border missile and drone strikes by the regime.

“The protesters’ slogan is not that the morality police should be disbanded,” said Nachmil Abdi, who works in a shop selling women’s shoes.

“Yes, one of the claims is an end to the compulsory headscarf,” she added. “But the true demand is the elimination of the regime.”

In this file photo taken on July 23, 2007, an Iranian policewoman speaks with women regarding her clothing during a crackdown to enforce Islamic dress code in the capital Tehran (Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)

Soma Hakimzada, a 32-year-old journalist born in Iraqi Kurdistan to parents who fled Iran, also viewed the move dimly.

“I don’t think women appreciate this Iranian announcement,” she said, adding that she hoped it would not dampen the fervor of protests inside the Islamic republic.

Elsewhere in Iraq, views were mixed.

“If we want to have a morality police, it must be done with soft words,” pleaded Wahid Sarabi, speaking in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf, but who is from the western Iran city of Hamedan.

Anti-government demonstrations, now in their third month, have shown no sign of stopping despite a violent crackdown. Protesters say they are fed up after decades of social and political repression, including a strict dress code imposed on women. Young women continue to play a leading role in the protests, stripping off the mandatory Islamic headscarf to express their rejection of clerical rule.

Iranians protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after she was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, October 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

After the outbreak of the protests, the Iranian government hadn’t appeared willing to heed the protesters’ demands. It has continued to crack down on protesters, including sentencing at least seven arrested protesters to death. Authorities continue to blame the unrest on hostile foreign powers, without providing evidence.

But in recent days, Iranian state media platforms seemed to be adopting a more conciliatory tone, expressing a desire to engage with the problems of the Iranian people.

Younis Radoui, a 36-year-old Iranian originally from Mashhad but now in Iraq, took the view that Iranian law “imposes respect for the hijab.”

“Therefore all citizens must respect the law and the hijab,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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