By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Tehran Iran’s police chief, Hossein Sajedinia announced and defended a controversial decision to form a seven thousand strong undercover police service charged with enforcing morality codes and, reportedly, assisting regular police forces with criminal matters.
Domestic and international civil libertarians project an Orwellian abuse about to unfold in that a largely unseen monitoring system will encompass the Iranian capital and generate the continual worry of being arrested for ordinary acts the government deems objectionable.
I suspect that if the powers to be view this program to be successful, other municipalities throughout the Islamic Republic of Iran will soon follow, further repressing whatever freedom currently remains in their country.
Last week we featured an article announcing that Saudi Arabia decommissioned the arrest powers of its religious police force. Not to be outdone by a geopolitical rival Iran stepped up to further destroy the notion of liberty and individuals wanting to be left alone.
Chief Sajedinia claims that the undercover officers will meet strict predetermined criteria and will operate under the full supervision of the police department. Also, the police will coordinate all the forces actions with the judiciary. He expects that any abuses of power will be promptly addressed in the “shortest possible amount of time.” In attempting to dispel worry of the religious police focusing solely on issues such as women’s veils the chief warranted that “moral security” is not only concerned with clothing issues but crimes such as drug abuse, theft, smuggling and street gangs. He attempted to assure his audience that the new force would not become a rogue gang of enforcers harassing ordinary citizens.
Beyond the obvious civil rights issues inherent with the establishment of a religious police force I have grave concerns about such an organization in any form. I suspect training and pay will be lax and professionalism low. In the short term the line between legitimate policing and political harassing will blur and a type of street justice might evolve, due to indifference by professional police officials and possibly enabling actions by political or religious officials.
A force of that size also has the potential to become self-serving and difficult to dislodge if it becomes entrenched in the bureaucracy. From there, factionalism could bring the religious police under one branch of the government (clergy), and the regular police services align with another (secular/legislative). In this situation the Iranian citizenry might find itself in the middle of two rival police factions that are used as political tools against opponents. We saw a similar analog of this within New York City in 1857 with the rivalries between the state incorporated Metropolitan Police Force and the NYC legacy department the Municipals. In the NYC example, the Metropolitans were a response by the legislature to address endemic corruption of the city’s police force which the state legislature and governor ordered to be disbanded. Loyalists to the mayor remained with the Municipals and rivalries turned for the worst where even judges were sympathetic toward one force at the expense of the other. Of course, the ordinary citizens fell victim to the impasse.
A further concern stems from watching the unrest during past Iranian elections where dissenters and supporters of reformist candidates were attacked by plainclothes toughs hired by those supporting the status quo, many of whom were discovered to be government employees or police. The undercover nature of these thugs makes it easier for government to abuse individuals with a measure of greater impunity since identification is not easily available as is the case with a uniformed police officer. On the other side, it would take little for miscreants to proffer they are members of the religious police and then exploit citizens at will.
The belief of undercover religious police abound certainly will sow mistrust among citizens who when faced with strangers need to take steps to ensure ultra-compliance is maintained in public because any stranger might be of the religious police.
Surprisingly, there was a glimmer of hope that there will be criticism of such a police force at higher levels of government. President Hassan Rouhani is critical of the new force. Rouhani expressed indirectly during a cabinet meeting,
“We have to be fatherly toward the people. Every morning someone wakes up and there is a new regulation, a new framework. One person wants to control the people secretly. Another person wants to control people openly. Do we have the right? The freedom of the people cannot be limited unless through the law. Nothing else can control the freedom of the people. The administration cannot do it. The judiciary cannot do it. Only the law. Without the law we do not have the right to interfere in the private or public lives of people. The prophet said that the ruler must be the father of the nation.”
Certainly it would have been better to not enable a religious police force than foster its creation and dissolve it later. But when much of Iran is governed by religious interests, the clergy having its own police force likely will prove to be an enticing tool for enforcing its directives and answering only to itself.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.
22 thoughts on “Tehran Announces Creation Of Undercover “Morality Police” Force”
I live in the theocratic republic of Virginiastan and our model of government is very similar to Iran.
Although Virginiastan is not as bad as Mississippistan or Iran, we are nowhere close to James Madison’s model of government.
In Virginiastan, the tribal morality police blacklist innocent villagers and heavily censor social media posts (similar to the former Soviet Union). Virginiastan also has a “guilty until proven innocent” Justice System where the tribal high court won’t allow all evidence to be used at trial – if one is luckily enough to receive a trial at all.
I sure wish Obama would transform our banana republic and third world Justice system into an American style system.
And speaking of state Fusion Centers…what do they do exactly?
Juggling for power between the secularists and the clerics.
Equating people who want to keep men out of little girls’ bathrooms and showers with the Taliban is an example of the false logic that has made conversation between differing points of views near impossible in today’s contentious climate.
Oh, and about the bathroom “morality police”, such laws have holes wide enough that rapists are already driving trucks through.
Tragically, all a man has to do is claim he is transgender, in order to share a locker room with little girls, enter a women’s shelter with fragile helpless women, or watch a woman shower. There is no burden of proof. And so in a move obvious to everyone expect supporters of the law, rapists are now preying on women in places where they were formerly safe.
Here is just one link, but a GOOGLE search will turn up many. They don’t even need to dress as women, just claim they are transgender.
I don’t want anyone bullied, including people suffering from gender dysmorphia. Wanting to help people does not excuse enabling rapists access to abuse women. Lockable unisex bathrooms would solve the problem, but that’s obviously too expensive for every business and school in the US to remodel. So I don’t have a perfect solution yet. But if all sides can’t talk about the problem, we’ll never solve it.
Whatever could go wrong?
Slowly the American Taliban in the south are doing the same thing.
Another concern is that in Iran, corruption is the norm. It is considered similar to “tipping” to bribe pretty much everyone you encounter throughout the day, from the garbage man, to the mailman, to the police. Everyone has their hand out. Combine that with a powerful undercover morality police, and it is very sobering.
May I add that this is one of the reasons why the Framers insisted on the 2nd Amendment. It is an added layer of security that the general population not be completely at the mercy of a government that may not always be benign. This is also a warning not to give government too much power over your daily lives. Do you really want government telling you what opinions and politics are OK? Because we are seeing the rise of fascism here in the US, even on university campuses. I think people will rue the day they allowed the government in general and the President in particular so much power. “I have a phone and a pen” can be very grim, indeed.
Bailers — you are exactly right. Will anyone be surprised whenever automobiles will be required to have some kind of device to measure a driver’s blood alcohol (or even caffeine, THC, opoids, mood etc.) level?
Seems like Iran hasn’t gotten the president’s message , in that with sanctions being removed that there will be a turn to Westernization and democratic rule. To the contrary, more repression seems to be the order of the day.
It will be interesting to see how the public reacts, if they ” allowed” to react at all.
So how is that different than the narcotics and vice units we have in the US?
If you “ape” Saudi Arabia then you may rape children, unwed mothers, sister wives and unseen predators. East of Corfu the Ten Commandments Don’t Apply. Iran is an “eye” country. Bush went to war against the wrong eye country. If they get a nuke we all will puke.
They are aping Saudi Arabia which already has a morality police. A gesture of “reconciliation”?
Dominionists like Cruz attempt the same in this country: by way of discriminatory legislation and wild misuses of taxpayer funds.
The only morality that needs policing are those who wish to police morality.
Any yet the West continues to invest and travel there but one has to wonder how is Iran any worse than our ISIS funding pals the Saudis?
Islam is a relgion that seems to support and foster theocracy. People can argue that it is unfair to paint all Muslims with the same brush but it seems to be a provable fact that once in charge the oppression only gets worse and worse. This, of course, is true of all theocrats regardless of their beleifs which is why theocrats are dangerous ……they just never have enough power over the rest of us. We should take heed as theocracy is also stalking our land in the guise of “Christianity”.
Maybe they can patrol the bathrooms in NC.
Sounds like the key words or ppl use. … Using “sentinels”…..you know the nosey neighbor who reports kids playing in their backyard as “unsupervised”…the investigation never starts with the sentinel….i.e. What was your vantage point? Are you sure it wasn’t “unsupervised”?….or how old are the kid? You mean they were playing outside alone before they were 26?….no anonomous reporters can put the govt within a house without a warrant. So what if iran has a secret police force….we got modern statsi too.
What a timing, Darren, was just reading this, and to be frank with you, this sounds a great deal more Orwellian and should be our focus.
“A survey of editors from print and online publications found most news organizations are weaker in their ability to defend the right to freedom of the press than they were ten years ago.
The Knight Foundation conducted the survey [PDF], along with the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), Associated Press Media Editors (APME), and Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Sixty-six editors were surveyed.
Around half of news editors indicated their news organizations were “no longer prepared to go to court to preserve First Amendment freedoms.” Eighty-nine percent indicated this was because defending the First Amendment is too expensive.
Forty-four percent of editors indicated their news organization was less able to go on the offense and sue to open up access to information.
“Newspaper-based (and especially TV-based) companies have tougher budgets and are less willing to spend on lawyers to challenge sunshine and public records violations,” one editor acknowledged.
Another editor declared, “The loss of journalist jobs and publishers’ declining profits means there’s less opportunity to pursue difficult stories and sue for access to information.” The costs of litigation constrain organizations.
“Government agencies are well aware that we do not have the money to fight. More and more, their first response to our records request is, ‘Sue us if you want to get the records,’” one editor stated.
The Associated Press reported in March, “The Obama administration censored materials it turned over or fully denied access to them in a record 596,095 cases, or 77 percent of all requests. That includes 250,024 times when the government said it couldn’t find records, a person refused to pay for copies, or the government determined the request to be unreasonable or improper.”
State legislatures throughout the United States frequently exempt themselves from public records laws, making it even more burdensome for news organizations to obtain records.
However, there also has been somewhat of a shift in news media. “Watchdog journalism” has declined substantially. With “less investigative work,” there are less incentives to wage legal battles for records.
“So many newsrooms do not cover government to the extent they used to. Instead, they are focusing on ‘passion’ or ‘franchise’ topics, and they often are not topics that require record-based reporting,” one editor responded.
The most common attack on First Amendment freedom is a subpoena seeking access to “unpublished materials.” Nearly half of editors said they have confronted this situation recently. Less frequent are attacks in the form of libel lawsuits, censorship efforts, or pressure to reveal confidential sources.
This report from the Knight Foundation comes the same week that Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released its World Press Freedom Ranking for 2016. The United States moved up to 41st out of 180 countries, but RSF noted the rise in ranking should not mask “overall negative trends.”
“The main cause for concern for RSF continues to be the current administration’s obsessive control of information, which manifests itself through the war on whistleblowers and journalists’ sources, as well as the lack of government transparency, which reporters have continually criticized,” RSF declared. “The Obama administration has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous administrations combined. Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA operative, was convicted solely on the basis of metadata in January 2015 of disclosing classified information to James Risen and is now serving a 3.5 year prison sentence.”
It also is a “cause of concern” that journalists covering campaign events during the 2016 presidential election have been “restricted by candidates” and insulted or bullied on social media. Plus, there continue to be arrests of journalists covering Black Lives Matter protests and other demonstrations.
Given the lack of resources to defend the First Amendment, it is easy to presume many news editors would err on the side of caution and not pursue journalism, which could result in legal liability. In fact, back in 2014, a survey by two Indiana University professors found fewer and fewer U.S. journalists believe using “confidential business or government documents without authorization” is acceptable.
The Knight Foundation awarded $200,000 to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press to help the organization expand its work “providing legal assistance to journalists and shaping a new path for free speech law.” The funding will be used for cases, where reporters can go on the offense and expand First Amendment protections.
As the Knight Foundation concluded, when representatives of the First Amendment’s “most important historic defenders say they are worried, all Americans should be worried.” Indeed, it is clear the First Amendment has suffered over the last decade, and there is a great need for journalists to fight back as hard as possible.”
Comments are closed.