Iranians Skeptical That Morality Police Actually Disbanded After Surprise Announcement

Skepticism is growing that the government of Iran has disbanded its feared morality police, after widespread weekend reports said Tehran took the drastic measure as a compromise in order to appease and soften the still raging 'anti-hijab' protest movement. 

Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri suggested the change was made on Saturday, however this "announcement" that the morality police has been disbanded remained ultra-vague, leading to confusion and rising skepticism.

"The morality police has nothing to do with the judiciary, and it was abolished by those who created it," Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had said on Saturday, but without elaborating on the surprise assertion. "But of course the judiciary will continue to watch over behavioral actions in the society," he had added.

Iranians Skeptical That Morality Police Actually Disbanded After Surprise Announcement
Via AP

His words were initially received as a partial victory for the protest movement, which has at times gotten violent in confrontations with police, and given buildings have been burned down. According to recent figures from the start of December, at least 450 protesters and 60 security forces have been killed. Tehran has dismissed the movement has foreign-backed and driven by "rioters". 

Protesters are now said to be by and large dismissing as authentic the claim of the disbandment of the morality police. According to The Washington Post

He appeared to be referring to the relative absence of the morality police on the streets since protests against Iran’s clerical leaders broke out. An app Iranians initially used to track the roaming patrols has in recent weeks been used to monitor and evade security forces instead.

But Montazeri’s remarks, while affirming that the morality police were not under the judiciary’s purview, were not an official confirmation of disbandment, which would require higher-level approval.

Additionally, Iran watcher Alex Vatanka of the Middle East Institute said, "It’s not 100 percent sure that this is a done deal." Vatanka, added in Sunday statements, “It could be that they’re just testing the waters to see how it will be received by the protesters."

The White House has meanwhile repeatedly said it stands in solidarity with the demonstrators, with President Biden weeks ago even appearing to call for regime change. He urged protesters to "keep fighting" an October statement. 

Iran protests have been persisting and growing fiercer since the September 16 death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in Tehran for not adhering to the country's strict Islamic dress code. 

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