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Thu Sep 22, 2022, 05:16 PM

From Iran's streets to the U.S. ballot box, women fight back against the 'morality police'

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Will Bunch
The amazing images of women rising up across Iran should also remind us that 'morality police' aren't only in Tehran. I looked at the bond between a revolt against the hijab and women fighting to control their bodies and destiny in the U.S.

My new column

From Iran’s streets to the U.S. ballot box, women fight back against the ‘morality police’
Stunning images of women burning their headscarves in Iranian riots are rooted in a despair shared by U.S. female voters over their eroding rights.
10:56 AM · Sep 22, 2022


No paywall

In 2022, women around the world are rising up to fight back against a common enemy: the morality police.

Here in the United States, the long arm of misogynistic social control can appear in many uniforms, from the black robes of Supreme Court justices hellbent on rolling back women’s reproductive rights, to the QAnon-chic of hockey rinks packed with politicized mobs chanting “Lock her up!,” to the ridiculous khaki fashions of well-dressed thugs who incongruously call themselves Proud Boys.

But 6,000 miles away in Iran, the morality police aren’t a metaphor. In the streets of Tehran and other cities in that Islamic fundamentalist theocracy, official squads set up checkpoints on street corners or subway stations to enforce strict laws requiring women to wear the hijab, or headscarf, in public — or look for other perceived offenses against Muslim law. These squads have detained thousands of women and even sent some to “re-education centers” for decades since Iran’s 1979 revolution. But this week, the morality cops went too far.

Say her name: Mahsa Amini.

On Sept. 13, this healthy 22-year-old woman from the Kurdish region of Iran near its western border with Iraq was visiting family members in the sprawling capital of Tehran when a morality police squad reportedly pulled her from her brother’s car. Her relatives and human-rights groups insist that Amini was severely beaten by the officers before she died of her injuries three days later. Iranian authorities have claimed, improbably, that she died from a heart attack. Almost no one is buying it.

The last few days have created once unthinkable videos and images from the fury of fire-lit boulevards and back alleys in cities across Iran — shared on social media despite the government’s desperate attempts to curb access — that depict the seminal moments of nothing less than a revolution against one of the most culturally repressive regimes on the planet, with women manning the barricades.


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