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Iran: Morality Policing, Under Supreme Leader's Supervision

By Shervin Omidvar, Rooz Online

On Sunday, Iran's the eighth Majlis assembly voted for the initial passage of the bill for policing morality issues, known as the "promotion of virtue and prevention of vice" with 172 votes in support. The bill, introduced by 103 lawmakers, has three chapters under the headings of definitions and general declarations, scope, and structure. It contains 28 articles and, if passed, would be applicable to areas such as "Islamic attire and limits, public decency, family, moral security, commercial cheating and overpricing, public and environmental health, citizenship rights, usury, bribery, and breaking fast in public."

Morality police question a woman in Tehran - June 2008

The new bill would set up a "Policy Council for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice" to oversee the bill's implementation and coordination among all government branches and organs.

The Council's chief will be appointed by the Islamic Republic supreme leader and is directly responsible only to the supreme leader.

Six other members of the council will be appointed in the following manner: "one deputy president chosen by the president, one judiciary deputy chosen by the judiciary chief, one lawmaker chosen by the Majlis, the minister of culture and Islamic guidance, the state radio-television chief, and one member of the supreme seminary school council."

Four of the Council's seven members will therefore be elected directly by the supreme leader or indirectly by supreme leader's appointees, such as judiciary chief, radio-television chief and the supreme seminary school council.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

In 2008, the government's official news agency, IRNA, had announced that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had ordered the establishment of a new ministry to oversee efforts to promote Islamic morality.

But as the 2009 presidential election drew close, Ahmadinejad changed his position and did not present the bill to the Majlis for the creation of the ministry. Similarly, although he had ordered the police in the 1384 (months after his election) to enforce the rules for Islamic attire, he refused to take responsibility for the plan, which had resulted in the arrests of thousands of young Iranian men and women, on the eve of the elections.

Mohammad Taghi Rahbar, a lawmaker who supports Ahmadinejad in the eighth Majlis, confirmed that the new bill intended to revive the old plan to establish a high level agency at the cabinet level for this purpose. He told student Basij news agency, "From some time ago a plan to create a ministry for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice was on the table, but unfortunately enough attention was not paid to the plan. Majlis lawmakers are determined to evaluate the plan and revive the principles of promotion of virtue and prevention of vice, which have been forgotten."

While law enforcement agencies in Iran have generally been in charge of compliance with Islamic attire rules, Rahbar's all is at the ministerial level: "A ministry must be in charge and responsible for this issue," he said.

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