Iran: Mass strike begins amid mixed reports on abolition of morality police | Iran

Iranian traders and truck drivers protested on Monday in nearly 40 cities following calls for a three-day nationwide strike by protesters as the government refused to confirm a senior official’s claim that the morality police had been abolished.

Instead, Iranian newspapers reported an increase in patrols, particularly in religious cities that require women to wear the hijab, and shop managers have been instructed by police to tighten hijab restrictions.

The confusion may be due in part to mixed messages sent by the divided regime as it tries to quell the protests.

Iran has been rocked by 11 weeks of unrest since Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, died in police custody after being arrested by morality police.

The show of strength in the shopkeepers’ strike satisfied protesters as it demonstrated that discontent with the government was still widespread in major cities such as Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz. The Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw said 19 cities had joined the strike movement in western Iran, home to the majority of the country’s Kurdish population.

Political prisoners called for three days of protests to be supported. Posters calling for the observance of the strike also appeared in the streets.

Government officials continued to say the protests were over, but also acknowledged that many shops had been closed, blaming intimidation that they said would lead to criminal charges.

Meanwhile, senior politicians, including President Ebrahim Raisi and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Kalibaf, said they would visit Tehran’s universities on Wednesday to discuss reforms with striking students, a tactic that had previously backfired.

In a sign that the government is not easing hijab rules, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that an amusement park in a shopping center in Tehran had been shut down by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.

The reformist Ham-Mihan newspaper said the morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran where the force had been less active in recent weeks.

The controversy over whether the police had been closed arose when Attorney General Mohammad Jaafar Montazeri was asked about the morality police at a conference, where he said: “The morality police was closed from where it was created.”

He added that they “have nothing to do with the court system” and “the court system will continue to monitor behavioral actions at the community level.”

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Iran’s official authorities have yet to officially respond to the dispute. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was asked about the disbanding of the morality police during a visit to Serbia on Sunday, saying that “in Iran, everything is moving forward within the framework of democracy and freedom.”

A journalist from Tehran told the Guardian: “The security forces and the police are focused on suppressing the protests, so they have no resources to use to deal with women without ferrejetas. The guiding patrol of the kind we used to see on the streets has completely disappeared and does not exist. On one of the days of demonstrations in Tehran, I walked through IRGC security forces without a hijab. They just looked at me. Their gazes were fierce, but they had no other interaction.

She also added that Basij paramilitary forces were still active at night and possibly more outside Tehran.

In Rasht, a women’s rights activist says she has not seen the so-called guiding patrol forces and cars for the past two and a half months.

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