While speaking at a conference on Saturday, Iran Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri stressed that the State’s morality police – the very force responsible for the brutal death of Mahsa Amini in September – has been disbanded, and was not in any way, shape, or form under the authority of the Justice Department.
The remark immediately took flight, prompting many commentators to allege that Tehran was prepared to make meaningful concessions to its detractors, which would provide proof that the Leadership had capitulated under popular pressure.
However, a bowing Leadership would discount the unbending nature of the ideology underwriting the Islamic Republic. While Tehran may tolerate economic or fiscal reforms, any attempt to dilute its religious dogmatism has always been met with absolute violence.
If we consider the fact that one of the very pillars upon which Ayatollah Khomeini’s system of governance is in total compliance with Islamic law (Sharia), it is ludicrous to imagine a situation in which the state would allow for the headscarf – one of its most visible symbols – to be expunged from the texts.
The Leadership cannot and will not cede religious ground – for its radical clerical class it is a matter of survival, along with the fact that they believe to be in the throes of a holy crusade against the moral decrepitude of the West, the evil they ambition to exterminate.
Nevertheless, Montazeri’s exercise in disinformation speaks volume. His sudden need to sow confusion amongst Iranians proves that the Leadership is at a loss and its men are desperate to regain some degree of control over the political narrative.
Even if the morality police were to be disbanded tomorrow, little will change on the ground if one considers how technologically reliant the regime has been to pinpoint and identify rule breakers so they can be prosecuted by its security apparatus.
The Islamic Republic has other means of control. The morality police is but one instrument.
In any case, Iranians are not biting. Iranian women’s rights activist Mahdieh Golroo told DW that Montazeri’s statements represented a “tried and true” tactic of the Islamic Republic’s information strategy.
“First, they claim something and engage media with it to raise hopes that this system is capable of learning and reform,” the 36-year-old activist who lives in Sweden said.
She added that although the mobile units of the “morality police” could very well be changed from their current form, this doesn’t necessitate a change in the strategy of using state power to enforce public behaviour, such as requiring women to wear headscarves.