In Iran, rare criticism of ‘morality police’ after Amini death

TEHRAN: The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini after her arrest by Iran’s “morality police” not only triggered protests in the country but also rare outspoken criticism by senior officials.
Public anger has grown since authorities on Friday announced Amini’s death following her arrest by the police unit responsible for enforcing Iran’s strict dress code for women, including the wearing of the headscarf covering their hair in public.
Amid growing controversy over the conduct of the morality police, known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol”, parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said Tuesday that the police unit’s conduct should be investigated.
“In order to prevent repetition of such cases, the processes and the method of implementation in guidance patrols… should be investigated,” he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.
The state-affiliated Organisation for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, set up to encourage good behaviour and prohibit immoral activities, said the police unit should not arrest people for breaking dress regulations.
“The view of this issue should be changed,” the influential organisation said in a statement, stressing that it opposed “the arrest and trial of ordinary people” for clothing infringements.
“The criminalisation of those not wearing a headscarf and the arrest, filing of cases and the prosecution of people which will only cause social tensions… should be amended in law,” it added.
The death of Amini has caused international consternation, including from the United Nations.
The United States criticised her death and the way it said security forces handled the ensuing protests.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on Tuesday rejected the criticism and said a probe had been ordered into the “tragic death of Mahsa”, who he said, quoting President Ebrahim Raisi, “was just like our own daughters”.
Inside Iran, and following protests in the capital Tehran and a number of other provinces, lawmakers have also raised their voices.
Jalal Rashidi Koochi, a member of parliament, told the ISNA news agency that the police unit was a “mistake” as it only resulted in “loss and damage” for Iran.
Another lawmaker, Moeenoddin Saeedi, said the unit “should be removed” and shut, ILNA news agency reported.
Clerics have also spoken out.
Ayatollah Asadollah Bayat Zanjani, a senior religious figure whose guidance many follow, on Saturday criticised the events leading up to Amini’s death.
“The set of behaviours and events that caused this unfortunate and regrettable incident are illegal, irrational and illegitimate,” the cleric said in a statement.
On the streets, protesters showed their anger.
On Sunday, police made arrests and fired tear gas in Amini’s home province of Kurdistan, where some 500 people had protested, some smashing car windows and torching rubbish bins, reports said.
On Monday, several hundred protesters in Tehran, including some women who took off their headscarves, were dispersed by “police using batons and tear gas”, according to Fars news agency.
Tehran governor Mohsen Mansouri on Tuesday said the protests in the capital were “fully organised with the agenda to create unrest”, in a post on Twitter.
“Burning the flag, pouring fuel on the roads, throwing stones, attacking the police, setting fire to motorcycles and garbage cans, destroying public property… is not the work of ordinary people,” he said.
Meanwhile, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative in Kurdistan province paid a visit to Mahsa’s family at their home, Tasnim news agency said Tuesday.
“I assured the family… that all institutions will take action to defend the violated rights of Miss Amini and none of their rights will be ignored,” Abdolreza Pourzahbi was quoted as saying.

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