Iran: mass strike starts amid mixed messages about abolishing morality police | Iran

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Iranian shopkeepers and truck drivers staged a strike in nearly 40 cities and towns on Monday following calls for a three-day nationwide general strike by protesters as the government refused to confirm a senior official’s claim that the vice squad had been abolished.

Iranian newspapers instead reported an increase in patrols, especially in religious cities, requiring women to wear the hijab, and store managers being ordered by police to strengthen hijab restrictions.

The confusion may be partly due to mixed messages from a divided regime trying to quell the protests.

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

The display of force in the shopping strike satisfied the demonstrators as it showed that there was still much discontent with the government in major cities such as Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz. The Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw reported that 19 cities had joined the strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population lives.

Political prisoners called for support for the three-day protests. Posters also appeared in the streets urging people to respect the strike.

Government officials continued to claim that the protests are over, but also admitted that many shops were closed, blaming harassment that they said would lead to criminal charges.

At the same time, senior politicians, including the president, Ebrahim Raisi, and parliament speaker, Mohammad Qalibaf, said they will visit Tehran’s universities on Wednesday to discuss reforms with the striking students, a tactic that previously failed.

In a sign that the government is not easing hijab rules, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported on Monday that an amusement park near a shopping center in Tehran was closed by the judiciary because operators were not wearing the hijab properly.

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

The controversy over whether the force had been shut down arose when the Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, was asked about the morality police at a conference, to which he said: “The morality police are closed from where they were set up”.

He added that they had “nothing to do with the judiciary” and “the judiciary would continue to monitor community-level conduct actions.”

Why protesters in Iran are risking everything for change – video explanation

Iran’s official authorities have not yet formally commented on the controversy. Asked about disbanding the morality police during a visit to Serbia on Sunday, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “In Iran, everything is progressing well within the framework of democracy and freedom.”

A journalist from Tehran told the Guardian: “The security forces and police are all focused on suppressing the protests, so they don’t have the resources to deal with women without the veil. The escort patrol in the form we used to see in the streets has completely disappeared and does not exist. On one of the demonstration days in Tehran, I passed the IRGC guards without a hijab. They only looked at me. Their looks were furious, but they had no other interaction.”

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

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

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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