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Iranian newspapers on Thursday issued rare criticism of the “moral police” who are supposed to verify the implementation of Islamic rules, after they circulated a videotape showing a woman pleading with her members to leave her daughter, sparking anger in Iran.

This criticism came at a time of renewed public debate over the compulsory wearing of the veil, in light of local media reports indicating that the controls on this issue are becoming tighter than before.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the law requires women in Iran, regardless of nationality or religious affiliation, to cover the head and neck.

But the margins on these lines have steadily widened over the past two decades. Many women loosen the head covering and reveal part of their hair, especially in Tehran and big cities.

The presence of the “moral police” waned after moderate Hassan Rouhani’s accession to the presidency in 2013. But recent weeks have seen a renewed presence under his hardline successor, Ibrahim Raisi.

The videotape, which was widely circulated on social media in Iran this week, shows a veiled woman standing in front of a green-striped white minibus, belonging to the “Morality Police” (officially the “Moral Security Police”), shouting that her daughter, who was apparently stopped on the bus, is ill.

The woman clung to the minibus and tried to stop it after it started moving slowly, before finally pushing away and speeding the bus away from the scene.

The reformist newspaper Sazend published a graphic of the scene on its front page, accompanied by the headline “Stop the moral police.”

Other reformist newspapers reflected a similar trend, with the “Arman Melli” newspaper calling on the police to be “nice”, while the “Sharq” newspaper warned that “civil peace at a critical point is.”

The videotape was released earlier this week. AFP cannot independently verify its authenticity.

However, Tehran police confirmed that the incident took place in a square in the west of the city.

“After the incident (…) the case was immediately investigated,” police inspector Hamid Khrushche said on Thursday, according to the official IRNA news agency.

He added, “Disciplinary action has been taken against the person responsible for this patrol for mismanagement,” adding, “Today the mother of this female citizen was consoled, and the female citizen in turn expressed her appreciation for the quick handling and following up on this issue.”

“Not an assignment”

The debate over the issue and the veil in general has found its way into the political arena.

Hassan Khomeini, a reformist figure and grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, posted a photo of the confrontation between the woman and the police bus on his Instagram account on Tuesday.

He attached the photo with the comment: “Whatever it is, it is not a command, it is not Islamic, it is not wise and it is useless.”

On the other hand, figures affiliated with the conservative movement focused on the need to respect the laws related to wearing the headscarf.

Ahmed Khatami, a member of the Assembly of Experts responsible for electing the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, emphasized that “the law must be implemented.”

“Unfortunately, some people do not respect the hijab and even remove the covering in public places, and this is against the law,” he added, according to ISNA news agency on Thursday.

The “moral police” are responsible for enforcing Islamic laws in Iran.

Its members are on the streets and have the authority to enter public places to see if these laws are enforced.

The presence of the security forces decreased after Rouhani came to power in 2013, and his promise to guarantee greater public freedoms.

In 2018, Rouhani stressed that “the promotion of values ​​will not be achieved through violence”, following the distribution of a tape showing the severe treatment of a woman by the morality police.

Earlier this month, Raisi, who succeeded Rouhani in the summer of last year, called for Iran’s hijab laws and rules to be “fully implemented”.

He stressed that “enemies of Iran and Islam” target “the religious foundations and values ​​of society,” as quoted by the IRNA news agency on July 5.

He was of the opinion that “necessary and precautionary measures must be taken,” and called on the relevant institutions to “take systematic and integrated steps in this regard.”

In early July, local media reported that women who do not adhere to the hijab will be prevented from using the metro in Mashhad (northeast), the second largest city in Iran and holy to Shia Muslims because it houses the shrine of Imam Reza .

The authorities also closed three cafes in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, because women did not remain veiled, according to the newspaper, “Hamshahri”.

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