- Protesters call for economic boycott from Monday to Wednesday
- Raisi visits Tehran University on Wednesday for Student Day
- Ministry of the Interior is silent on the morality police’s status
DUBAI, Dec 4 (Reuters) – Protesters in Iran on Sunday called for a three-day strike this week, increasing pressure on authorities after the state prosecutor said the morality police whose detention of a young woman had sparked months of protests , is closed.
There was no confirmation of the closure of the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of the morality police, and Iranian state media said state prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri was not responsible for overseeing the force.
Top Iranian officials have repeatedly said Tehran will not change the Islamic Republic’s mandatory hijab policy, which requires women to dress modestly and wear headscarves, despite 11 weeks of protests against strict Islamic regulations.
Hundreds of people died in the unrest that erupted in September after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who was detained by the morality police for flouting hijab rules.
Protesters seeking to maintain their challenge to Iran’s spiritual rulers called for a three-day economic strike and a rally to Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square on Wednesday, according to individual posts shared on Twitter by accounts not verified by Reuters not.
President Ebrahim Raisi will address students in Tehran on the same day to celebrate Students’ Day in Iran.
Similar calls for strike action and mass mobilization have led to an escalation in the unrest that has gripped the country in recent weeks – some of the biggest anti-government protests since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The activist HRANA news agency said 470 protesters had died by Saturday, including 64 minors. It said 18,210 protesters were arrested and 61 members of the security forces were killed.
Iran’s Interior Ministry State Security Council said Saturday the death toll was 200, according to the judiciary’s Mizan news agency.
Residents who post daily on social media and newspapers such as Shargh say there have been fewer sightings of the morality police on the streets in recent weeks, as authorities appear to be trying to avoid provoking more protests.
Montazeri was quoted by the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency on Saturday as saying that the morality police had been disbanded.
“The same authority that established this police closed it down,” he said. He said the morality police were not under the authority of the judiciary, which “continues to monitor behavioral actions at the community level.”
Al Alam state television said that foreign media portrayed his comments as “a retreat on the part of the Islamic Republic of its position on hijab and religious morality as a result of the protests”, but that all that could be understood from his comments that the morality police was not directly related to the judiciary.
State media said four men convicted of collaborating with Israel’s spy agency Mossad were executed on Sunday.
They were arrested in June – before the current unrest sweeping the country – following cooperation between the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards, news agency Tasnim reported.
The Prime Minister’s Office in Israel, which oversees Mossad, declined to comment.
The Islamic Republic has long accused arch-enemy Israel of conducting covert operations on its soil. Tehran recently accused Israel of plotting a civil war in Iran, a charge it has also made against the United States and other Western countries.
“Western countries are using the protests to interfere in Iran’s internal affairs,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said at a news conference on Sunday.
Iranian state media reported on Wednesday that the country’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentence handed down to the four men “for the crime of collaborating with the intelligence services of the Zionist regime and for kidnapping”.
Three other people were sentenced to between five and 10 years in prison after being found guilty of crimes that include acting against national security, aiding kidnapping and possessing illegal weapons, the Mehr news agency said.
Reporting by Dubai Newsroom Editing by Dominic Evans, Raissa Kasolowsky, William Maclean and Susan Fenton
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