The fate of Iran’s morality police is unclear after Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri said they “have been shut down from where they were set up.”
The Iranian government would not confirm the move, and local media have reported that his remarks have been “misinterpreted.”
The September 16 death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody has sparked protests across the country. She was arrested on the 13th by the morality police for not properly wearing a religious head covering called a hijab.
Iran has had various forms of “morality police” since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but the latest version, formally called the Guidance Patrol, is the main agency enforcing Iran’s Islamic code of conduct right now. It began enforcing the strict women’s dress code in 2006.
Montazeri was at a religious conference when he was asked about the Guidance Patrol.
“The morality police had nothing to do with the judiciary and have been shut down from where they were set up,” he said, adding that the judiciary would continue “to monitor behavioral actions at the community level.”
But when reporters pressed for an explanation, asking if the morality police had been disbanded, some Iranian state media pushed back, saying that was a misinterpretation of what Montazeri had said.
“The most that can be understood from Mohammed Jafar Montazeri’s remarks is that the morality police’s patrols have not been connected to the judiciary since their inception,” said state-run TV channel Al-Alam.
However, when asked about Montazeri’s remarks during a visit to Serbia, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian neither confirmed nor denied that they were correct.
“In Iran, everything is moving forward well in the framework of democracy and freedom,” he said.
And on Saturday, Montazeri told the Iranian parliament the law that requires women to wear hijabs would be looked at.