In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the morality police, a unit of the National Police, are charged with insuring that Iranian citizens comply with so-called Islamic law. For example, morality officers have to make sure that women wear their veil correctly. If they see a young man and woman walking together, they can stop them and ask if they are married or from the same family. If the morality police suspect that they are an unmarried couple, they can reprimand them.
The new app is meant for young Iranians, especially young women who wear their veil loosely, pushed far back on their heads and showing their hair and face.
The way the app works is simple. If a user sees a "Gasht-e-Ershad", an officer of the morality police, in the street, he can upload the officer’s location to the app, then other users will be immediately warned and can change their route.
An app meant to end "humiliation"
The app has built-in checks to make sure that users are sharing credible information. For example, users have to activate their GPS and can only identify officers who are within a one-kilometre radius of their location. You can also see how many other people have already identified an officer at a precise location. The more people who report that officer, the more trustworthy the alert becomes. Finally, a user can also enter his or her favorite neighborhoods and receive specialized alerts when a police officer shows up there.
The Gershad app can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. The description reads : "Everyone knows to what extent we are humiliated by the morality police. Many websites are full of photo and video evidence of the humiliations that young women in particular undergo. The Gershad app is a peaceful way to minimize the risks and to bring us back a little freedom." It's hard to say if this app will take off in Iran, but people seem to be trying it out already. If you log in, you can see that several users have already uploaded officer locations.
The authorities also estimate that they stopped 40,000 cars because the women inside were allegedly wearing "inappropriate clothing ". Some women dare to show a bit more skin if, for example, they are going from one gated community to another and know they won’t have to get out of their car in between. In most cases, women are freed after their friends or family bring them more conservative clothes. However, for a second offence, women can be fined.
Hassan Rohani was elected president of Iran in 2013. Since the more moderate Rohani took office, our Observers say that there’s been a decrease in the number of morality police on the streets.
That said, the Iranian government doesn’t have 100% control over the police. The chief of police is named by Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei, even though he answers to both the religious authority and the minister of the interior.