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Iran's Morality Police Assault Woman, Sparking Outrage

By Michael Lipin, VOA

A video of a young woman being wrestled to the ground by Iranian "morality police" for not wearing a hijab properly has sparked outrage on social media and prompted Iran's government to launch an investigation.

Editor's Note: Some viewers may find this video disturbing.

The video of Wednesday's assault in a Tehran park went viral Thursday after Masih Alinejad, freelance host of VOA Persian's Tablet program, posted it on Instagram and other social media platforms.

In the three-minute clip, several morality policewomen wearing the chador approached the young woman who is wearing a loose headscarf that exposes some of her hair. They scold the woman before grabbing her and wrestling her to the ground as she screams to be let go.

Under Iran's Islamist law, women and girls older than 9 years old must cover their hair and wear long, loose garments in public. Morality police are assigned to enforce the dress code around the country, but many women who oppose the system defy it by wearing hijabs loosely to reveal their hair.

Several women in the Iranian government joined the social media backlash against the assault.

Iranian Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, posted a tweet condemning the actions of the morality police and saying: "Such harsh and irreligious behaviors are below the dignity of any human being."

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's special assistant for citizens' rights affairs, Shahindokht Molaverdi, tweeted a message calling for changing the approach of Iranian law enforcement and cultural institutions toward the hijab.

Iran's ISNA news agency said the Iranian interior minister responded to the backlash by ordering an investigation into the incident. Another Iranian news agency, ILNA, carried a police statement on the actions of the morality policewomen, saying Iran's regular police "never approve of such behavior."

In Thursday's edition of VOA Persian's Straight Talk show, some callers in Iran expressed support for the nation's Islamist dress code for women. They said women are harassed if they disobey the rules and can avoid such harassment by following the code.

Other callers objected to the hair-covering rule, with several women sharing stories of being harassed in public because of their dress, not just by morality police but also by fellow citizens.

One woman who identified herself as Mahnaz from Tehran said morality police and other harassers of dress code-defying women "have no understanding of Islam" and only use it to trouble people. She said the Iranian government should act to stop the harassment.

VOA Persian's Behrooz Samadbeygi and Afshar Sigarchi contributed to this report.

About the author: Michael Lipin covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin


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