Iran’s odious morality police

June 8, 2017 • 1:00 pm

The Gasht-e-Ershad, or Iranian “morality police”, have wide latitude to arrest women for inappropriate dress or behavior (covering themselves insufficiently, showing too much hair, being with a boyfriend on the street, and so on). As The Observers France 24 reported in May, a lot of women get arrested:

Part of the regular police force, its male and female officers are charged with enforcing Islamic codes in Iranian society, and have the power to arrest people they think are violating them. While the total number of its officers is unknown, a spokesman said the force made 207,000 arrests between March 2013 and March 2014, and notified a total of 2 million women that their hijab (Islamic dress) was not correct.

Under Iran’s Islamic law, women are supposed to cover everything except their face and hands. Conservative women wear the chador – a black garment that covers the head and goes down to the ankles. But other women choose to wear a scarf that covers their hair, a knee-length “manteau”, or coat, with sleeves to the wrist, and a skirt or trousers.

In recent weeks, a series of videos has emerged on social media showing what happens when women are arrested by the morality police. Many of the videos – filmed surreptitiously inside the patrols’ white and green vans, and inside police stations where women are questioned – have been posted to a Facebook page called “My Stealthy Freedom”. [See also here.]

The Observers link gives some disturbing cellphone videos taken surreptitiously by brave and “uppity” women in custody, in vans, and in the police station.  One woman who was apprehended said this:

The problem is we’re never sure what’s forbidden and what’s not. Women are arrested because their sleeves are too short, or their manteaux are a bright colour like red or yellow. Or they’re wearing torn jeans, or a hat instead of a scarf or chador. Or they dye their hair a colour like blue or pink. Or they have a tattoo. Or long boots. Or heavy makeup. Or leggings.

The arrest is not going to change the way I dress. But one thing has changed: I don’t feel safe in the streets anymore, because of the patrols. I feel suffocated. How can I be arrested in my own country, humiliated and treated like a criminal when I’ve done nothing wrong? Just because they don’t like the way I look. The next time it happens, I’ll resist – I won’t get in the van even if they beat me up.

Click on the screenshot below to go to a brief history of covering in Iran, which began by order of the government after the revolution in 1979. Not many women covered their hair then, and there were huge demonstrations by women against it. So much for it being a “choice” in Iran—it’s not only the law, but the evidence is that without that law and the attendant social coercion, most women wouldn’t cover themselves. A few brave women defy that law, and are also shown in the video below.

A criminal—and a brave woman.

A BBC report shows more arrests in a distressing video; click on the screenshot to go there:

Make no mistake about it: this is not a natural aspect of Iranian “traditional culture”, as some apologists claim. If that were the case, why did the “culture” change all of a sudden in 1979, just when Iran became a theocracy? Nor can it be explained by Western “colonialism”, as it is clearly involuntary and was imposed on women by men adhering to Islamic doctrine.  No, this is the “culture of religion” pure and simple, and not primarily culture, as Anita Sarkeesian maintains in her new Islam-apologist video on the site “Feminist Frequency”. The clip below is starts at 14:50 in that video, and I’ve transcribed the relevant bit (my emphasis):

“Now I can already hear the army of Richard-Dawkins-parroting, anti-feminist Twitter users typing up their responses about how Islam is a religion dedicated to oppressing women. It’s amazing how suddenly everyone’s a feminist when it lets them perpetuate hate against brown people [JAC: n.b.—Not all Muslims are “brown”] or dismiss concerns about how women are oppressed in their own culture. So let’s be clear: misogyny is not a problem with Islam; misogyny is a problem that some cultures which happen to be Muslim use the religion to perpetuate and justify. Christianity has been used a tool that has been used to oppress women around the world for millennia.”

This is how an ideologically blinkered feminist explains things like the Islamic morality police, the stoning and the covering of women, and so on. It’s the culture, Jake! Remarkable, isn’t it, that the culture happens to be coincident in both space and time (see above) with the imposition of Islamic theocracy? And we all know why people like Sarkeesian keep making these unconvincing arguments: they don’t want to be seen as racists who oppress “brown people”.


43 thoughts on “Iran’s odious morality police

  1. I honestly don’t understand how people can not recognize that religion is part of culture. It is no more separate than shoe fashion.

    1. This misses and important point: the power of faith to motivate and drive behavior. I am a Christian, culturally, but I believe not a word of it. Religion as a set of beliefs is logically separable from the broader culture.

      1. Well I don’t really know what a “cultural Christian” is. Someone who decorates trees in December? That would include me, although I find no utility in the term.

        In any case, what does your lack of faith have to do with it? You and I share a culture comprised of shared ideas. Some of them we enjoy, some of them we find absurd. You can’t just expel some of them from “culture” by fiat.

        Claims like Sarkeesian’s, that misogyny isn’t religious because it is cultural, make no sense because they assert a separateness (culture/religion) that doesn’t exist. (And there are other reason she makes no sense, of course.)

        Culture is the encircling oval of a Venn diagram. Misogyny and religion are smaller circles within it, whether or not the two themselves overlap.

  2. What Anna Sarkeesian says is simply bulls**t.

    And how is dragging Christianity into the argument relevant exactly? Just because Christianity also has a history of oppressing women, doesn’t make it okay for Muslims to do it too.

    The anti-women, anti-LGBT etc, anti-atheist, anti-Semitic (and more) rules are written in the Qur’an. Whether or not they existed before Islam is irrelevant as Islam continues to perpetuate them. (As does Christianity, though to a lesser extent.)

    And isn’t the “Christianity did it too” argument stepping in her own argument that it’s not Islam, it’s culture?

    If you want to be taken seriously, you really should do some proper research into the subject. Authoritarian left talking points don’t cut it in the real world.

    1. If you want to be taken seriously, you really should do some proper research into the subject.

      I agree. And proper research could include living in Iran for a year.

      Remember, these are the people who place such a high value on ‘lived experience’.

      1. Living in Iran for a year is an excellent idea for people like Sarkeesian. People like her remind me of politicians eager for war because they’ve never experienced it.

    2. Par for the course coming from her.

      As someone who has played a lot of video games over the last 2 to 3 decades, and is as a result very familiar with the subject matter of her last attempt at being socially relevant*, I can say with all honesty that she is the left wing equivalent of Anne Coulter. Her narrative was carefully packaged for an audience that wouldn’t know any better; and she knew that her lies (for want of a better word) could be relied on to provoke to outrage a key demographic that would “prove” her claims true.

      She’s essentially a career troll.

      * For those who don’t know: her last Big Project was proving that games are evil vehicles of misogyny.

      1. Stop harassing her! (/sarc)

        That was the reply to literally anyone who dared to point out all the lies she spouted in her videos on that subject, and I’m sure she’ll continue with the same tactic.

      2. I’d say she’s more of another Gail Dines.

        On the surface she seems respectable enough, and then you dig down a bit and you find a lot of fudge in that research.

    3. The Amish have managed to maintain a highly retrogressive culture which is combined with a strong ethic of non-violence.
      People get shunned- they do not get scourged.

    4. While I agree, her bulls**t shouldn’t stop her from coming to the right conclusion, and yet it does.

      What I mean is, she should still oppose criminalization of women who want to dress liberally. If she wants to claim it’s cultural rather than religion, well fine, I half don’t care so long as she speaks out against it.

      But as far as I can tell, the alt left has decided to paradoxically be insulted that we would say religion is responsibl, and yet at the same time claim western colonialists have no right to judge it to be bad. Look alties, if you really thought it was just peachy, you wouldn’t be offended when we claim it’s religious, would you?

  3. I don’t understand why people like Anita Sarkeesian find it offensive to hear Islam called misogynistic, but apparently not offensive to if various ethnic/country cultures are called misogynistic. Except I’m pretty sure she objects just as loudly if anyone calls the culture of a people who could be considered “brown” misogynistic.

  4. What Sarkesian is arguing is that Iranians don’t do this shit because they are Muslims but because they are Iranian.

    How is it less ‘racist’ to blame culture rather than religion? Culture maps onto race much more closely than religion does.

      1. As a person of Armenian descent, Anita Sarkeesian is a classic case of Stockholm Syndrome. Iran comes from “Aryan” The sassanian empire of Iranshah covering Iran, Iraq and a small part of central asia meant “Land of the Arians”. The ancient Persian regime and religion was pretty sexist but it didn’t mandate death to women for adultery and it certainly didn’t require women to veil themselves. Thats Islamic.

    1. The hucksters spinning this muslim line don’t mention “and all coming to your street soon” lest it scare the marks into doing something to prevent it.

    2. Yes, she has always been a huckster, but a very, very good and effective one. She knows exactly what the regressive left want to hear, and she is willing to give it to them as long as she’s given money and fame in return.

  5. Islam is not the problem; it’s just that some cultures find that Islam is a convenient way to oppress women. Likewise, guns are not the problem, it’s just that some people find that guns are a convenient way to kill people. Look around the world – there is absolutely no connection between gun ownership and homicide. Oh, wait….I’m not sure that’s quite right.

    1. I think that comparison isn’t all that useful. Islam is an ideology whereas guns are devices. As an ideology it is filled with statements about how humans should behave, in fact statements that are attributed to an almighty deity whom you must obey. These statements provide actual motivation to believers. Guns don’t offer such motivations.

      1. My impression is that in some cultures and subcultures, guns – like religion – provide (spurious) self-esteem and confidence. I suppose Obama meant this when he talked about “sticking to guns and religion”.

        1. I think you are confusing the fetishization of weapons with the weapons themselves. The fetish is comprised of ideas of glory and illusory power. The guns are just devices like crucifixes.

  6. Sarkeesian’s fans can be reassured that she’s right about one thing; it is culturally based. Though no religion is true in any useful way, they all reflect the culture they were invented in. In this case 8th and 9th century Arabia.

  7. All points above being taken, but does ‘Ghast-e-Ershad’ not sound kind of, how shall we put it, ghastly?
    I know it’s a cheap shot, but aren’t they?

  8. I do say a lot of things about religion and science that Dawkins says. But I am not in any sense parroting. I have independent reasons and evidence. I expect the same is true of most of the regulars here. If anyone is parroting talking points thoughtlessly and heedlessly it is Sarkeesian.

  9. “Morality police” are at the intersection of the two things I hate most — bullies and puritans.

  10. I can absolutely see how there is a certain irony seeing people who regularly threaten to rape and kill her for being a woman with opinions on video games suddenly pretending to care about women’s rights when it comes to muslims.

  11. In context proper, Sarkeesian believes video games cause misogyny and sexism, yet religion is merely an expression or tool for such attitudes. She is completely bonkers.

    Also, a standard: smearing disagreement as anti-feminism and racism, and associating both with Richard Dawkins. There’s the famous Gish Gallop, and I believe the SJW technique needs a name, too, the Sarkeesian Barrage — a whole battery of smears, insinuations, accusations, and falsehoods condensed such that it becomes impossible to address anything in a given attention span. They really have mastered this by now.

  12. The culture in my country of birth (Tajikistan) is same as Iran, were part of Persian Empire. It’s true that Islamic theocracy, 1979 revolution, changed Iran and lead it into wrong direction. Although my country of birth is majority islam, but thank the Ceiling Cat, it’s strictly secular. I think some people (especially some of the upcoming young generation, mostly rural areas) are inclined to theocracy.
    But to say that a lot of horrible stuff happening in Iran is due to culture, it’s not cuz my country of birth’s and Irans cultures are the same, is a huge lie by hypocrites.

    1. So long as we are on the topic, I would like to see some equal time given to Saudi Arabia. I, personally, think Iran, because of its deep secular culture, could find a political way forward to evolve into something approaching a secular state. I am not so optimistic with regard to the cultures endemic to the Arabian Peninsula.

  13. Almost certain there will be no majority government in Britain. Prevent is doomed and Islamist groups will be able to upscale their subversion on the society – both Muslim and Non muslim. In Australia the state of Victoria – has a pro religion conservative govt – first a stupid programme of supporting some externally provided religious instruction in schools (which is discredited) now an inquest into Religious Freedom. The latter has prompted to Muslim Council of Victoria to provide a laundry list of demands for the government to compel media to be more sensitive to muslim religion; for government funded “safe spaces” explicitly for Muslim youth to vent extremist resentments that are less acceptable in the public space; for additional special funding in all government services for muslims; for more enforcement of human rights legislation/treaties wherever they apply to Muslims etc etc. The Minister has rejected it.

    1. When someone says people should be respectful to religion, they most always mean “to my religion.”

  14. I fully agree that women should be allowed to dress how they want in Iran. But I’m not sure most women would go without hijab, among the urban middle classes almost all women would for sure but Iran is larger than just the tehrani upper and middle class.

    A poll showed majority of women actually support obligatory hijab in Iran

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