Unnerved by nearly three months of spreading protests, Iran’s theocratic regime may be retreating. In their first concession since demonstrations erupted in September after the death of Mahsa Amini for not wearing a “proper” hijab, Iran’s authorities have hinted at the abolition of the religious police force in whose custody she died. The defining symbol of the 43-year-old regime, epitomising the strict enforcement of sharia (Islamic law), may be slipping away.
Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, called the requirement of women to be veiled the “flag of the revolution”. So the regime’s sudden decision to lower it has been muted. The prosecutor-general, Muhammad Jaafar Montazeri, announced it during a parliamentary committee meeting. Henceforth “judicial confrontation will be the last stage,” he told the assembly. Unspecified “cultural” methods would be adopted instead. In another meeting he said a decision would be taken by mid-December on whether to abolish the mandatory hijab altogether.