Local media reported on Sunday that Iran has disbanded its morality police following more than two months of protests sparked by the detention of Mahsa Amini for allegedly breaching the country's strict dress code for women.
Since the death of a 22-year-old Iranian woman of Kurdish descent on September 16, three days after her arrest by the Tehran morality police, a wave of women-led protests, dubbed "riots" by the authorities, has swept Iran.
Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying, "Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary" and have been eliminated.
According to the article, he remarked at a religious conference in response to a participant who inquired "why the morality police were being disbanded."
The morality police, technically named the Gasht-e Ershad or "Guidance Patrol," was founded by the authoritarian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to "promote the culture of modesty and hijab," the obligatory female head covering. In 2006, the units began patrolling.
The news of their elimination came one day after Montazeri stated that "both parliament and the courts are working (on the matter)" on whether the legislation requiring women to cover their heads should be modified. President Ebrahim Raisi said in broadcast comments Saturday that Iran's republican and Islamic foundations were constitutionally anchored "but there are means of implementing the constitution that might be flexible".
Four years after the 1979 revolution that ousted the US-backed monarchy and established the Islamic Republic of Iran, the hijab became mandatory. 15 years ago, morality police officers originally issued warnings before beginning to arrest women.
The vice squads often consisted of men wearing green uniforms and women wearing black chadors, which cover the head and upper body. The role of the units has evolved, but it has always been controversial, even among presidential candidates.
Under the former moderate president Hassan Rouhani, when it became customary for women to wear tight trousers and colorful headscarves, clothing conventions gradually shifted. In July of this year, however, his successor, the ultraconservative Raisi, demanded that "all state institutions follow the headscarf law."
Raisi asserted at the time that "the enemies of Iran and Islam have attacked the cultural and religious values of society by propagating corruption." Despite this, many women continued to break the prohibitions by allowing their headscarves to fall onto their shoulders and by wearing tight-fitting slacks, particularly in major cities.
Saudi Arabia, Iran's regional adversary, also employs morality police to enforce female dress standards and other rules of conduct. Since 2016, the army has been relegated to the background in an effort by the Sunni Muslim nation to shed its reputation of austerity.