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Confusion over whether Iran has disbanded its “morality police” has grown as state media said a widely-reported quote from the country’s attorney general that the force had been “abolished” was misunderstood.
Local media had reported that the country’s top lawyer Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had made the announcement Saturday during a religious conference, CBS News reported, news that was met with widespread skepticism by anti-government protesters and amid no further confirmation from the government. But state media outlets later claimed the attorney general had been “misunderstood”, the Associated Press reported.
Montazeri’s comment came as Iran continues to grapple with mass anti-government protests following the death of Mahsa Amini. The 22-year-old Kurdish woman was arrested by the morality police on Sept. 16 for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.
Amini died three days later in police custody.
Her death sparked large women-led demonstrations against Iran’s hardline Islamist regime, with protesters burning their mandatory hijabs and shouting anti-government slogans. Later, the protests widened to include men with demonstrators demanding the resignation of top regime officials.
The government, in response, has violently cracked down on the protesters and has blamed the West for the upheaval. Officials say more than 300 people have died in the unrest but human rights groups say the death toll is much higher.
Iranian officials recently announced the death penalty for protesters if convicted. More than 1,000 people are expected to be put on trial.
Montazeri’s apparent comment came a day after he said that “both parliament and the judiciary are working” on whether the law requiring women to cover their heads should be modified.
But demonstrators and campaigners remain skeptical at any such moves. Observers noted that even the abolition of the morality police would not be enough to curb protesters’ demands, including fundamental changes to the leadership of the nation.