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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 12, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 07
Iranians invent app to evade morality police
Section One
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Iranians invent app to evade morality police

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Iranian developers have invented a new app that allows users to alert each other to lurking 'morality police.'

Called 'Gershad' - a contraction of the Farsi name for the morality police, 'Gasht-e-Ershad' - the app is available from the Google Play Store.

Iran's morality police are charged with making Iranian citizens - particularly women - comply with the regime's interpretation of Islamic social norms.

For example, the morality police must ensure that women wear their headscarves correctly. Young women who wear their scarves pushed back on their heads, revealing their hair, can be stopped by the morality officers and reprimanded. Women who wear tight clothes or show their arms or ankles are also subject to the morality police.

If morality officers see a young man and young woman walking together, they can stop the couple and make them prove they are married or related. If they can't, the couple is subject to arrest.

According to official figures, in 2014 the morality police stopped 3.6 million women for cases of 'badly worn' headscarves. Some 180,000 women were arrested, and 18,000 were sentenced by a court for violations of Islamic morality.

Iranian authorities also estimate that they stopped 40,000 cars because the women inside were allegedly wearing 'inappropriate clothing.'

'Everyone knows to what extent we are humiliated by the morality police,' the app's online blurb reads.

'Many websites are full of photo and video evidence of the humiliations that young women in particular undergo. The Gershad app is a peaceful way to minimize the risks and to bring us back a little freedom.'

The way the app works is simple. If a user sees an officer of the morality police in the street, he or she can upload the officer's location to the app, warning other users to take evasive action.

The app has built-in checks to make sure that users are sharing credible information. For example, users have to activate their GPS and can only upload the location of officers who are within a one-kilometer radius of their location.

Users can also see how many other people have identified an officer at a particular location. The more people who report that officer, the more trustworthy the alert becomes.

Finally, a user can also enter his or her favorite neighborhoods and receive specialized alerts when a police officer shows up there.

According to France 24 website, since Hassan Rouhani became president of Iran in 2013, there has been a decrease in the number of morality police seen on the streets. Nevertheless, morality police are not under the jurisdiction of the civil authorities, but answer to Iran's religious leaders as well as to the country's Minister of the Interior.

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