Following calls for a three-day statewide strike by protestors calling for the overthrow of religious rulers, Iranian stores closed their doors in a number of locations on Monday. The head of the judiciary accused “rioters” of intimidating shop owners.
Following the death of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on September 16 while in police detention, Iran has seen widespread unrest, posing one of the largest threats to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
Amini was arrested by Iran’s morality police for flouting the strict hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarfs. Women have played a prominent role in the protests, many of them waving or burning their headscarfs.
The semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Monday that an amusement park at a Tehran shopping center was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.
The reformist-leaning Hammihan newspaper said that morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran, where the force has been less active over recent weeks.
Iran’s public prosecutor on Saturday was cited by the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency as saying that the morality police had been disbanded. But there was no confirmation from the Interior Ministry and state media said the public prosecutor was not responsible for overseeing the force.
Ali Khanmohammadi, spokesman for Iran’s headquarters for Promoting Virtue and Preventing Vice which oversees implementation of religious edicts, said on Monday the era of the morality police was over, but that there will be other methods to enforce Islamic dress code.
“Decisions are being made to confront those violations of hijab by a small group of women… officials cannot remain indifferent towards these violations,” Khanmohammadi said
Last week, Vice President for Women’s Affairs Ensieh Khazali said that the hijab was part of the Islamic Republic’s general law and that it guaranteed women’s social movement and security.
In the shop protests, 1500tasvir, a Twitter account with 380,000 followers focused on the protests, shared videos on Monday of shut stores in commercial areas such as Tehran’s Bazaar, and other large cities such as Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, and Shiraz.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, said that “rioters” were threatening shopkeepers to close their businesses and added they would be swiftly dealt with by the judiciary and security bodies. Ejei said protesters condemned to death would soon be executed.
The Revolutionary Guards issued a statement praising the judiciary and calling on it to swiftly and decisively issue a judgement against “defendants accused of crimes against the security of the nation and Islam”.
Security forces would show no mercy towards “rioters, thugs, terrorists”, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted the guards as saying.
Witnesses speaking to Reuters said riot police and the Basij militia had been heavily deployed in central Tehran.
The semi-official Fars news agency reported that officials had locked a jewelry store owned by former Iranian football player Ali Daei after it decided to close for the three days of the countrywide strike.
Similar video of shuttered businesses was shared by 1500tasvir and other activist accounts in smaller cities like Bojnourd, Kerman, Sabzevar, Ilam, Ardabil, and Lahijan.
The strike movement in western Iran, where the majority of the country’s Kurdish population resides, has gained support from 19 cities, according to the Kurdish rights group Hengaw.
Since the death of Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by the morality police for disobeying the hijab laws, hundreds of people have died in the unrest.