Iran’s long-feared “morality police” are increasingly facing resistance from women they try to arrest under the country’s strict hijab laws. The resistance reached another level on Feb. 15 in the capital Tehran, when passers-by intervened to prevent the arrest of two young women, wrecking the police van and freeing the women.
According to Iranian media, officers from a “Gasht-e Ershad” (guidance patrol) unit tried to arrest two young women in front of the Sarsabz metro stop in eastern Tehran. The officers reportedly managed to get the two women into the van against their will, but then passers-by attacked the van, breaking windows, tearing a door off, and freeing the two women. The women’s identity remains unknown.
An amateur video widely shared via the messaging app Telegram since Feb. 15 appears to show the incident. In the first part of the video, a crowd surrounds a white van; in the second part, two gunshots are heard.
This video, circulated widely via the Telegram messaging app in Iran starting Feb. 15, 2019, appears to show a crowd intervening in the arrest of two women by officers from the morality police. Gunshots are heard in the second part of the video.
Incident confirmed by police
Tehran police confirmed the incident in a statement saying that a patrol performing its “natural job” fighting immoral dress had tried to apprehend two women. “They insulted police officers on duty,” the statement said. “The officers wanted to transfer them to a police station, but they refused and with assistance from passers-by the attacked the police van, breaking windows and one door. The agitators tried to overturn the police van, so the officer had to shoot in the air to stop them.”
Social media users in Iran shared this photo of the door of a van belonging to the “Gasht-e Ershad” morality police starting Feb. 15, 2019. The Tehran police confirmed that passers-by had ripped a door off one of their vans that day.
The police statement said officers would continue to enforce the law and would not be intimidated by “media propaganda”.
“Guidance patrols” facing increasing public opposition
The morality police’s white and green vehicles have long been a source of potential trouble for Iranians – mostly women – unhappy with the Islamic Republic’s strict dress rules. The patrols, part of the regular police, are increasingly facing opposition from the public.
In April 2018, a video of two women defending themselves against a female officer from the morality police went viral in Iran. The video showed an officer in Tehran slapping one of the women, then the two women defending themselves. The police supported their officer’s actions and a court rejected a lawsuit filed by the victims.