International Business Times
By Harriet Sinclair
April 21, 2016 19:46 BST
A human rights activist and member of the Iranian resistance has criticised president Hassan Rouhani for allowing 7,000 new morality police to patrol the streets ‘suppressing women’.
Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said Rouhani had the power to halt the measures, which have so far carried reports from Tehran of armed police stopping girls as young as 12 for failing to veil ‘correctly’, despite the president claiming the government could not interfere.
Karimi said: “Suppression of women is further institutionalised in Iran with each passing day. The regime’s suppressive institutions are ever more blatantly cracking down on women. This has been a tenet of the mullahs’ regime from its outset.
“The addition of 7,000 forces dedicated to the suppression of women and further gender discrimination speaks well of the reality that Hassan Rouhani is no different from the other mullahs and the hopes for an improvement of women’s rights in Iran which some had advocated at the start of Rouhani’s tenure as President are a mirage.”
However, Rouhani this week appeared to distance himself from the crackdown run by the morality police – themselves officially presided over by the country’s supreme leader rather than by the government, although they have an opportunity to influence the force via legislation and feedback.
“According to the regime’s laws, Rouhani has the authority to halt the new suppressive measures against women,” Karimi added. “By refusing to do so, he is in practice endorsing them.”
As soon as the crackdown came into effect on 18 April, several posts were shared on social media of women being stopped in their cars – reportedly for playing music too loud or mal-veiling – while one 15-year-old released a harrowing account of being threatened with jail for wearing makeup.
In a statement made this week Rouhani had stressed that it wasn’t up to the government to make such moral judgement, saying: “Our first duty is to respect people’s dignity and personality. God has bestowed dignity to all human beings and this dignity precedes religion,” in comments carried by ISNA.