IRAN

Iranians claim victory over morality police

Iranians in the northern city of Rasht claim to have struck a blow for freedom against Iran's notorious morality police, after allegedly freeing a girl who was being arrested for not wearing her headscarf properly. See the amateur video...

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Iranians in the northern city of Rasht claim to have struck a blow for freedom against Iran's notorious morality police, after allegedly freeing a girl who was being arrested for not wearing her headscarf properly.

Summertime is the busiest time of the year for the "Guidance Patrol" police unit, which deals with breaches of Islamic law such as social interaction between men and women and style offences. Women can be arrested if they are not covered from head to toe, and both sexes risk jail if they go out in "Western clothing".

However, this year's summertime crackdown got off to a bad start after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the arrests of people who, he implied, committed a trivial offence. Outraged by his comments, hardline clerics reacted, saying that "nobody has the right to prevent the police from acting against ‘bad hijab'".

On Friday, video footage was posted online purporting to show the ambush of two officers who were attempting to arrest a girl for wearing a "bad hijab".

The images are hard to decipher. According to the Facebooker who published the video, it shows a crowd rescuing the girl and chasing the police away. However, since there is no real evidence to support this claim, other Iranians suggest that the police did indeed succeed in arresting the girl, although their rear window was smashed in the process.

If you have any information about this incident, or were witness to the scene, please contact us. We’ll update this story as we find out more.

The bloggers' version of accounts

Eli (not her real name) is a 22-year-old blogger from Rasht. She says she was witness to the scene.

I was passing by Motahari Street - one of the main central roads here - when I came across an angry crowd. When I got through to see what they were looking at, I saw a policeman fighting with a middle-aged woman while at the same time trying to fend off bystanders. There was another officer at the wheel of a patrol car and a girl with a blue scarf in the back. I was told that the police had tried to arrest the girl because she was wearing a ‘bad hijab', but that the girl's mother had intervened and said that she wouldn't allow them to do it.

As the mother and officer continued shouting at each other, people started to rally round in support of the mother, booing the police. At that moment a young man suddenly took the arrested girl by the hand and pulled her out of the police car and into the crowd. The officer in the car came running out and shouting, and suddenly I heard the woman screaming. It was all out-chaos after that - the rear window of the police car got smashed and the officers leapt back in the car and drove off, while people shouted dictator, dictator!"

Photo of a patrol car taken on the same day. The text on the back window reads "Gasht e Ershad" (Guidance Patrol). Posted on Facebook on 24 June 2010.

The alleged rescue

The video was filmed on Thursday 24 June and posted online on 25 June.