Iran's morality police return to the streets

 Iranian women make their way along a sidewalk in downtown Tehran, Apr. 26, 2016. [AP Photo]

Iranian authorities Sunday announced the return to the streets of the morality police, which enforce the country’s mandatory veiling laws.

The presence of the morality police had largely ceased following the nationwide anti-government protests sparked by the death last year of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. Amini had been detained by Iran’s morality police for allegedly wearing her headscarf too loosely.

Even while street protests have subsided, many women in Iran have publicly opposed the mandatory hijab since Amini’s death.

Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi, the spokesperson for the Law Enforcement Force of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or FARAJA, said Sunday the move to bring morality police back was in response to "public demands, the requests of various social groups and institutions, and the emphasis from the president and the judiciary."

He said that individuals who defy social norms and those who exhibit "non-conventional attire" will be handled accordingly.

In May, The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights called on Iran to decriminalize mandatory veiling laws, warning that the harassment of women, including what they do or do not wear, appears to have intensified as street protests have died down.

“Women and girls face increasingly stringent legal, social, and economic measures in the authorities’ enforcement of discriminatory compulsory veiling laws,” Volker Türk told reporters in Geneva. “I urge the government to heed Iranians’ calls for reform, and to begin by repealing regulations that criminalize non-compliance with mandatory dress codes.

In April, Iran launched a new domestic surveillance program for enforcing its mandatory hijab law.