Iran’s morality police status unclear, but wearing the hijab is still mandatory for Iranian women

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(NEW YORK) -- Women in Iran will still be required to wear the hijab under Islamic Republic law, even if the country's government decides to abolish the religious police who were in charge of enforcing the dress code.

Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri announced on Saturday the country's morality police had been dismantled, adding that the judicial system will keep monitoring people's behavior in the country.

But on Sunday, Alalam News, the Arabic outlet of the Iranian state media, denied the attorney general’s comment on ending the morality police in a short piece on Sunday.

In addition, Iran's parliament and the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution are studying the topic of hijab, and the result will be announced in 15 days, Montazeri announced on Thursday.

However, it is unclear how things will change as a result of these moves by the government. The announcements do not indicate that the mandatory hijab rule in Iran is over, as wearing the hijab is still mandatory under Islamic Republic law.

Morality police were just one of the enforcement arms for the regime to implement the law of mandatory hijab for women. There are "security" offices in all state organizations and malls, as well as parks and other public places, that are manned and managed by the intelligence ministry. One of the major tasks of these offices is to monitor women's hijabs. Morality police was the name of the patrolling vans that would arrest women on the streets.

Even if the religious police were to be abolished, protesters and activists have been warning that it's very likely authorities will rebrand the morality police and the mission will be back in no time under another name -- as the morality police was itself a rebranded mission of a former police division name "Sar-allah Patrol."

Women are controlled in many other ways to abide with this law. Girls -- from the age of 7 -- are not admitted at school if they do not wear clothes that are deemed proper. Women patients are not admitted at the hospitals if they do not wear a hijab. Women do not receive any service at the banks or any other organizations if they don't follow the hijab laws.

The announcement to eliminate the religious police comes three months after deadly demonstrations in Iran -- as well as protests all over the world -- which could be an indication that the government is bowing down to global pressure.

On Sept. 16, Iranian woman Mahsa Amini died in the hospital days after she was arrested for allegedly not adhering to the dress code correctly.

Amini's death ignited protests among women who risked their lives by ripping off their hijabs and cutting their hair in public.

At least 448 people, including 60 children, have been killed since the protests began, though the true number is believed to be higher because of the difficulty in accessing death certificates, according to NGO Iran Human Rights.

The protests are also targeting the head of the regime, Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with slogans such as "Death to dictator" and "Death to Khamenei."

An estimated 14,000 people across the country, including many journalists and school children, have been arrested on charges related to demonstrations, the United Nations announced last month.

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