THE brutal death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s twisted morality police has sparked days of nationwide protests.
She was allegedly detained for having some hair visible under her headscarf – which Iranian women are legally required to wear.
And Mahsa then fell into a coma shortly collapsing at the detention centre and died three days later in hospital.
The morality police have denied smashing her head with a baton and banging it against one of their vehicles.
Her death has sparked furious protests across the country, with many calling for the dismantling of the ruthless morality police.
Female protestors have burned hijabs in the street and riots have broken out, with at least eight people killed in clashes with cops and counter-protestors.
Under Iranian law, which is based on the country’s interpretation of Sharia, women must cover their hair with a hijab and wear long, loose-fitting clothing.
The morality police – also know as the Guidance Patrol – are in charge of arresting women who violate the conservative dress code.
Tasked with ensuring Islamic morals are respected, they spend their days patrolling busy public spaces in green and white vans to crack down on “improper” behaviour and clothing.
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Women detained by cops are either given a warning or bundled into a van and whisked away to a “correctional facility” or a police station where they are lectured on how to dress before being released to their male relatives.
One disillusioned morality police officer said it feels like they are “going out for a hunt” when the teams deliberately pick somewhere busy to patrol and ambush women.
He told the BBC: “They told us the reason we are working for the morality police units is to protect women.
“Because if they do not dress properly, then men could get provoked and harm them.
“It’s weird, because if we are just going to guide people why do we need to pick somewhere busy that potentially means we could arrest more people?
“It’s like we are going out for a hunt.”
He added: “They expect us to force them inside the van. Do you know how many times I was in tears while doing it?
“I want to tell them I am not one of them. Most of us are ordinary soldiers going through our mandatory military service. I feel so bad.”
The morality police units are often made up of the Basij – a paramilitary force initially set up to fight in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Back in 1979, the leader of the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, decided hijabs would be compulsory for all women in their workplaces and considered uncovered women to be “naked”.
Although there were widespread protests, women and girls were legally required to wear modest “Islamic” clothing by 1981.
They expect us to force them inside the van. Do you know how many times I was in tears while doing it?
Morality police officer
In 1983, lawmakers decided that women who didn’t cover their hair in public could be punished with 74 lashes.
Cops have often struggled to enforce the strict laws – with many women often pushing the boundaries, wearing tight-fitting coats and brightly coloured headscarves.
But dozens of women have suffered at the hands of the morality police over the last 40 years.
In 2007, Zahra Bani-Yaghoub was arrested in a park in the western city of Hamedan while she was with her fiance.
Two days later, police said she was found dead in a detention centre after allegedly taking her own life.
Her body was bruised and there was blood in her nose and eyes – and Zahra’s dad accused the morality police of assaulting and murdering his daughter.
In 2018, a morality police van was filmed dragging a student in Tehran down the street.
The young woman was seen hanging from the front of the van as it continued driving forward. It’s not clear what happened to the woman.
Earlier this year, Sepideh Rashnu, a 28-year-old artist, was arrested after she was filmed arguing with a woman on a bus over the hijab.
Two weeks later, she appeared battered and bruised on state TV giving a forced confession.
And days after the confession video, Rashnu was reportedly taken to hospital due to risk of internal bleeding.
Insiders said she was suffering from low blood pressure and had difficulty walking.
She was later charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “promoting corruption and prostitution”, according to reports.
Mahsa’s death has reignited urgent calls to tear down the morality police and end their role in policing women’s behaviour and clothing.