UN rights committee calls on Iran to disband morality police

The death of Mahsa Amini held in morality police custody last year triggered months of nationwide anti-government protests

Reuters
Published : 4 Nov 2023, 06:43 AM
Updated : 4 Nov 2023, 06:43 AM

The United Nations Human Rights Committee on Friday expressed concern over Iran's treatment of women and girls and called for the disbandment of the Islamic Republic's morality police.

In its review of Iran's human rights record, the committee said Tehran should introduce legislation that protects women and girls from any form of violence.

"The state party should adopt a comprehensive law criminalising all forms of violence against women and girls that explicitly addresses domestic violence, marital rape and crimes committed in the name of so-called 'honour'," the committee said in its report.

The death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini held in morality police custody last year over a breach of rules requiring women to wear the hijab (head scarf), triggered months of nationwide anti-government protests.

Amini's death unleashed years of pent-up anger over issues from a lack of political and lifestyle freedoms to economic hardships, triggering the clerical establishment's worst legitimacy crisis in decades.

The UN rights committee said Iran should "amend or repeal laws and policies that criminalise the non-compliance with compulsory veiling... and disband the morality police".

Iran's diplomatic mission in Geneva did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the committee's findings.

Iranian police and basij militia, who are affiliated with Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, enforce compulsory public dress codes using violence, according to the United Nations and rights groups. A woman not wearing a hijab can face harassment, arrest, a fine and even prison. Activists who have challenged the laws have faced years in prison.

Iranian officials blamed the unrest on foreign foes, notably the United States and Israel, raising the stakes for anybody facing arrest.

Tehran's Shia Muslim clerical leadership has described the veil as "one of the civilizational foundations of the Iranian nation".

Morality police largely vanished from the streets after Amini died in their custody. But as the protests fizzled they returned to streets and surveillance cameras were installed to identify and penalise unveiled women.