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Activists dismiss claim Iran morality police abolished

In this July 3, 2019 photo, a woman inspects a headscarf at a market in downtown Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
In this July 3, 2019 photo, a woman inspects a headscarf at a market in downtown Tehran, Iran (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Campaigners backing Iran’s protest movement dismiss a claim that the Islamic Republic is disbanding its notorious morality police, insisting there was no change to its restrictive dress rules for women.

There are also calls on social media for a three-day strike, more than two months into the wave of civil unrest sparked by the death of Kurdish-Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, 22, after her arrest by the morality police in Tehran.

Amini was accused of flouting Iran’s strict dress code demanding women wear modest clothing and the hijab headscarf, and her death sparked protests that have spiraled into the biggest challenge to the regime since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iran’s Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, in a surprise move over the weekend, was quoted as saying that the morality police units –- known as gasht-e ershad (guidance patrol) — had been closed down.

But activists are skeptical about his comments, which appeared to be an impromptu response to a question at a conference rather than a clearly signposted announcement on the morality police, which is run by the interior ministry.

Moreover, they say, the abolition would mark no change to Iran’s headscarf policy — a key ideological pillar for its clerical leadership — but rather a switch in tactics on enforcing it.

Scrapping the units would be “probably too little too late” for the protesters who now demand outright regime change, Roya Boroumand, co-founder of the US-based Abdorrahman Boroumand Center rights group, tells AFP.

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