Iran’s “morality police” have been suspended after months of criticism that followed the death of a woman arrested by the group.
Iran’s “Guidance Patrol” has been stationed at major intersections and streets in Iranian cities and arrests those that have violated the Islamic Republic’s strict religious dress code.
But the patrol has been suspended, a top official said, according to the Washington Post. The decision comes after protests began in September following the death of Mahsa Amini, 22. She was arrested for her attire and then fell into a coma and later died.
Family and friends have said that Amini was beaten to death, and the government is covering up the crime.
Officials have denied the claims, Time reports.
“The Guidance Patrol has nothing to do with the judiciary; it was suspended by the same institution that formed it in the past,” the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported, citing Chief Public Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri. “But of course, the judiciary will continue to watch over behavioral actions in the society.”
Some 400 people have been killed and more than 15,000 arrested from the protests and rallies, rights groups say.
It’s unclear if the special police group is officially disbanded or just temporarily suspended, according to some experts.
Montazeri’s “statement should not be read as final,” said Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Chatham House, a London think tank. No formal announcement has been made by top law enforcement officials or clerical leaders. “The Islamic Republic oftentimes test runs ideas by tossing them out for discussion,” she said.
Vakil also said that the dress code remains in place. He said there are “other ways to suppress people” and enforce the law.
In November, the United Nations urged the Islamic Republic to stop targeting activists and protestors and indicated that it would investigate Iran for human rights violations.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.