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can the abolition of the morality police calm the protest?

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A gesture towards the demonstrators or an announcement effect? On Saturday December 3, Iranian Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said that morality police, created in 2006 under the presidency of the ultra-conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2013), “has been abolished”. Remarks made after the decision of the authorities to revise a 1983 law making the wearing of the veil compulsory in the country.

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Not sure, however, that this measure appeases the popular uprising that has set Iran ablaze since the death of the young Mahsa Amini in mid-September, after her police custody in Tehran for a veil judged “badly worn” by the morality police. His death triggered an unprecedented wave of protests, with the main slogan: “Woman, life, freedom”. Despite the crackdown, which has already claimed 448 lives and thousands of arrests according to the NGO Iran Human Rights, the protest movement against the mullahs’ regime continues, with calls launched on social networks for a three-day strike from this Monday, December 5.

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To understand the context of this announcement and its consequences on the mobilization, “the Obs” spoke with David Rigoulet-Roze, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) and editor-in-chief of the review “Strategic Directions”.

Can there really be an abolition of the morality police in Iran?

David Rigoulet-Roze This announcement of the abolition of the morality police should be taken with great caution, in particular because of the context of the announcement. The Prosecutor General of Revolutionary Justice, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, indeed answered a question submitted to him during a seminar in Qom [ville sainte qui abrite des dizaines de séminaires du clergé chiite et où résident nombre d’ayatollahs] with a sibylline formula: “The religious police was abolished by those who created it”without further details.

He also added that this police had nothing to do with the judicial power that he himself represents, but that this power continued to monitor behavior in society, and therefore respect for the wearing of the veil. It is a strange and ambiguous formulation.

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There has been a lot of speculation since Saturday. Some believe that this is only a diversionary maneuver, a kind of counter-fire in relation to the difficulties that the regime is encountering. What is certain is that this morality police, which depends on the Ministry of the Interior and therefore on the government, has not confirmed or denied this information. No government source has validated this statement. There is therefore a big question mark, even if the real issue is not the morality police but the question of wearing the veil, which since the law of 1983 is a sacrosanct constitutional principle. However, to this day, it is still mandatory.

Will the declarations on the abolition of the morality police have an impact on the situation in the country?

It is very unlikely. The Iranians are not fooled. It is not this announcement that will change anything because it is already too late. This announcement is possibly the symptom of a concern of the power which tries to create a diversion, but it is not a step towards the demonstrators. Iranians may even take it as an admission of weakness. Basically, this does not change anything, especially since the abolition of the morality police has not been confirmed by the executive.

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There is a revolutionary dynamic going on today. On the next three days, there is the announcement of a strike movement, with in particular the Day of the students on December 7th. There have been calls on social networks to take up arms, this is the first time that this has happened.

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What follow-up can the protest movement take, when the obligation to wear the veil is not, for the moment, abolished?

Today, through the demand for the wearing of the veil, there is the questioning of the Islamic Republic itself. However, the question of wearing the veil is in the DNA of the regime, which cannot renounce it without denying itself. This would amount to the suicide of the regime, it is an ideological aporia. In the street, however, there are currently more and more women who do not wear the headscarf. And there are so many of them that it would make no sense to suppress them. But the regime cannot be conceived without prohibition. They are at an impasse.

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We will not go back. The younger generation has nothing to do with it. They can no longer bear having religious prescriptions imposed on them which, for them, date from the Middle Ages. There is a potential tipping point, but the question is when and how.

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