Unveiling Morality Police Violence against Women in Iran



On April 11, a video surfaced of a female police officer of the Gasht-e-Ershad morality police beating, bunching and wrestling down to the floor a 20-year-old girl simply because she was not covering her hair properly.

The video shows two girls walking in a public garden where suddenly a female officer—with a gang of female morality police officers— attacks one of the girls, tries to pull her by force to the car and starts beating her so violently. She pulls the girl’s scarf up over her neck, slaps her hard across the face and squeezes her arms while other female officers surrounding the young girl and beat her too. The video shows that every inch of her body is beaten. This was quite shocking not only for the Iranian people but to anybody who watched the video.

♦ It is fabricated
After the video spread like wildfire over the internet, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Sadeq Larijani said that the morality police “must not retreat a single step” or apologize, highlighting “it was the girl who started beating the female police officer and not vice versa.” The hardliner media outlets confirmed Larijani’s remark, asserting that the video is fabricated to “incite sedition.” But Larijani did not stop here, he bashed harshly the young girl saying, “ anyone violates the law must be sued. The [morality] police must be adhered to its position, otherwise breaking the law will be common amongst people, jeopardizing the security and stability of this country.”

♦ Widespread criticism

Some state officials and parliament members objected the use of force by the morality police against women. Massoumeh Ebtekar, vice president in charge of women’s affairs, condemned the violence of the police and wrote on Twitter: “The police brutality is unacceptable.” Laya Joneydi, the vice president for legal affairs, said “this is a blatant violation of the constitution, which protects human dignity of all people regardless of their crimes. . .No one has a right to violate the dignity and human rights of others. . .The female officer shall be subject to investigation.” The Minister of Interior, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli assured that this situation will be investigated calling on women to be confined to the social rules.”

The Iranians expressed their rage and anger through social media, speaking out that the morality police use excessive violence and brutality against innocent people just like ISIS. Maryam Asfandyar, human rights activist, said “this incident was taped, there are hundreds of women who are daily vulnerable to police brutality, but nobody hears about them!” She confirmed the fact that the morality police is above the law and cannot be sued because the regime itself “cover up their crimes.”

Farah, 26 young lady working at a bank, said that she was beaten and arrested by the female officers. “As I was going to my work, I was stopped by the morality police over my short- sleeve shirt. After a verbal altercation, one of the female officer tried to pull me, by force, to the car. But I resisted.” Farah did not make it; she was arrested eventually. Her father was called on by the police station where he was roughly offended— but he remained as silent as the grave, so he would not be arrested too.

♦ The fruit of the 1979 revolution

The morality police is a branch of the Basij formed after the revolution. It was established to protect the Islamic dress code for women and supervise the public behavior of both citizens and visitors in Iran. And men are not even allowed to have the so-called Western style haircuts.
Many morality police vans patrol the streets day and night. They are empowered to impose fines and arrest any woman violating the Islamic regulations set by the Iranian regime. More than 7000 morality police officers are deployed across Tehran, said former Tehran police chief in 2016.

♦ Inciting the regime

Roughly speaking, most of the Iranians face endless police interventions in their everyday life. They see the morality police as tool the regime use to monitor their private life. Here, women are the most vulnerable to the police abuse. Actually, the morality police is driven and fueled by the regime and its clerics. One of the most prominent clerics in Qom Ja’far Sobhani said that strict measures shall be carried out against those women who are not committed to the ‘proper’ Islamic dress codes (covering their hair completely) and called on the morality police to remain strict and use force even if this would lead to complete lawlessness.

♦ Smartphone application to escape morality police

To dodge the morality police, a group of anonymous Iranian developers created a new smartphone application called Gershad and launched it in Google Play. The application, using on GPS, identifies the location of the morality police, so people can avoid them. If you are in a street and wants to know if there is any morality police van patrolling, the application simply sends you a notification of its location. The application operated for one week only and was immediately banned by the regime.

♦ Rouhani criticizes the morality police

Few days after the infamous incident, Iran President Rouhani openly criticized the violence of the morality police. He said in a speech carried live by state television, “boosting virtues in the country cannot be done by violence,” adding “let people live their live.” It is worth to mention here that Rouhani, since he came to office, has been trying hard to curtail the dangerous interventions of the morality police into the private life of the Iranian people. But he does not have the power to stop them, anyway. This has incited the fury and agitation of women who held a strike against the compulsory wearing of hijab. Many women who decided to remove hijab on public were arrested. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called the women’s strike as “trivial and insignificant . . . created by foreign enemies.”

Editorial Team