Iran shopkeepers stage walkout in 40 cities amid protests

Iran shopkeepers stage walkout in 40 cities amid protests

On Monday, Iranian shopkeepers and truck drivers staged a walkout in nearly 40 cities and towns after calling for a three day nationwide general strike by the government. A senior official said that the morality police had been abolished.

Iranian newspapers reported increased patrols, especially in religious cities, requiring women to wear hijab, and shop managers being directed by the police to reinforce hijab restrictions.

The confusion may be due to mixed messages being sent out by a divided regime as it seeks to quell the protests.

Iran has been rocked by 11 weeks of unrest after a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody after being arrested by the morality police.

The show of strength in the shop strike satisfied protesters since it showed that discontent with the government was still rife in major cities like Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz. The Kurdish Iranian rights group, Hengaw, also reported that 19 cities had joined the strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country s Kurdish population lives.

Political prisoners called for the three-day protests to be supported. Posters appeared in streets urging that the strike be respected.

Government officials continued to claim the protests are over, but also admitted that many shops had been shut down, blaming intimidation that they said would lead to criminal charges.

At the same time, senior politicians, including president Ebrahim Raisi, and parliament speaker Mohammad Qalibaf, said they would visit Tehran universities on Wednesday to debate reforms with the striking students, a tactic that has previously backfired.

In a sign that the government is not relaxing the hijab rules, the semi-official Tasnim News Agency reported on Monday that an amusement park at a Tehran shopping mall was closed by the judiciary because its operators were not wearing the hijab properly.

The Ham-Mihan newspaper said that the morality police had increased their presence in cities outside Tehran, where the force has been less active over the past few weeks.

The controversy of whether the force had been shut down came when the attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, was asked about the morality police at a conference where he said they had no influence on the judiciary and the judiciary would continue to monitor behavioural actions at the community level. The official authorities of Iran have not yet formally reacted to the controversy. In a visit to Serbia on Sunday, Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, was asked about disbanding the morality police, saying everything in Iran is moving forward well in the framework of democracy and freedom. A journalist from Tehran told the Guardian: "The security forces and police don't have the resources to deal with women without veils, so they're all focused on suppressing the protests." The guidance patrol in the form we used to see in the streets has disappeared and does not exist. I passed through the IRGC guard forces without a hijab on one of the days of demonstrations in Tehran. They looked at me only. Their looks were furious, but they had no other interaction. She said Basij's forces were still active at night, and probably more so outside Tehran.

A women's rights activist said she had not seen the so-called guidance patrol forces and cars in the last two and a half months.