Iran Morality Police May Have Been Shut Down, But No Official Word

Iran’s public prosecutor said Sunday that Tehran has shut down the country’s controversial morality police, although there was no immediate confirmation from the Interior Ministry that oversees the police unit.

Public Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri made the announcement about abolishing the morality police, but the Iranian state media said he was not responsible for overseeing the force.

The actions of the morality police have been at the center of more than two months of deadly protests in the country after the death in mid-September of Mahsa Amini, 22, while she held in their custody after they detained her for allegedly not covering her hair properly with a hijab.

Clashes between protesters and Iranian security forces have erupted in cities nationwide, with Iran acknowledging last week that more than 300 people have been killed in the unrest. Most of those have been demonstrators, but Tehran says that several dozen security agents have also been killed.

The morality police have for years patrolled the streets in Tehran and elsewhere looking for violators, chiefly women, of the strict code of what religious authorities consider appropriate dress under Islamic dictates.

Last week, Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps said in a video published by the Mehr news agency, “Everyone in the country has been affected by the death of this lady.” He said some of “the best sons of the country” had been killed in the rioting.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was asked on CBS’s “Face the Nation” show whether the abolishment of the morality police would end the protests in Iran.

“That’s up to the Iranian people,” he said. “This is about them.”

“What we’ve seen since the killing of Mahsa Amini has been the extraordinary courage of the Iranian people, especially women who’ve been leading these protests, standing up for the right to say what they want to say, wear what they want to wear,” Blinken said.

“So, if the regime has now responded in some fashion to its protests, that could be a positive thing,” he said.

“But we have to see how it plays out in practice and what the Iranian people think,” Blinken said.