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Hijab protesters launch 3-day strike against Iran's rulers

There will be a decisive rally in Tehran's Azad Square on Wednesday. All shops are closed across the cities in Iran. The over two-month old anti-hijab protests are turning against the Islamic rulers. There is no final word on the morality police. US diplomats see "internal disharmony" within the Government.

TEHRAN, Dec 5: The status of Iran's morality police is still not clear. Even as there are conflicting reports on the disbanding of the morality police, the anti-hijab protesters on Monday began a countrywide three-day general strike demanding ouster of the Islamic rulers. There will be a rally in Tehran's Azad Square on Wednesday.

There was no word from the Interior Ministry about the reported scrapping of the morality police. The Attorney General, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri had made the statement at weekend that the force had been abolished but he is not responsible for overseeing the force, it is said. When asked about Montazeri’s statement, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian gave no direct answer. He was speaking during a visit to Belgrade, Serbia.

Following the call by protesters for three days of the general strike demanding removal of the Islamic rulers, shops were closed in key commercial areas, such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz.

Shops in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil and Lahijan were also closed.

The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said that “rioters” were threatening shopkeepers to close their stores. He said protesters condemned to death would soon be executed.

The riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.

An amusement park at a Tehran shopping centre was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.

The countrywide violent protests began following the death of a woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, of Kurdish origin, in police custody after she was taken into custoduy for violating the Islamic dress code while in Tehran. Amini died on September 16 in police custody. The unrest that followed in the Islamic Republic was unprecedented since the 1979 revolution. Amini had flouted the hijab policy that requires women to wear head scarves.

During the violent countrywide protests, women swirled and burned headscarves. An increasing number of women have been walking the streets without the head scarves, violating the Islamic Republic's law.

Iran is facing strict sanctions from the West, crippling its economy. Iran has been providing arms support to Russia in the invasion of Ukraine. US diplomats see "internal disharmony" in the Government over the protests. Iran has accused Western countries of flaming the unrest. It also accused the ethnic minorities of spearheading the protests.

In September, the Union of Islamic Iran People Party, the country’s main reformist party, had called for the abolition of the hijab law. The party was created by the relatives of former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Morality police established in 2005

The morality police known formally as the Gasht-e Ershad or “Guidance Patrol” was established in 2005 under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Clothing norms gradually changed, especially under former moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Women began wearing jeans and colourful headscarves.

In July last, conservative President Ebrahim Raisi called for the mobilisation of "all State institutions to enforce the headscarf law" but women let their headscarves slip onto their shoulders.

The hijab had become mandatory four years after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the US-backed monarchy and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The ongoing protests against the dress code claimed 470 lives and 18,000 protesters have been arrested countrywide.

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