Iran president criticizes violence by morality police

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani attends a meeting with Muslim leaders and scholars in Hyderabad, India, February 15, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 21 April 2018
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Iran president criticizes violence by morality police

  • The morality police have been far less visible in cities since Rouhani came to power in 2013
  • Tehran’s police chief claimed in December that a softer line was being taken on breaches of Islamic code such as clothing rules

TEHRAN: Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday appeared to criticize the morality police after a video emerged of a violent encounter with a woman accused of breaching the country’s strict dress code.
“Some say the way to promote virtue and prohibit vice is... by going to the street and grabbing people by the neck,” said Rouhani in a wide-ranging speech to government officials carried on state television.
“Promoting virtue will not work through violence,” he added.
On Thursday, mobile footage went viral on Iranian social media showing a female member of the morality police violently beating a woman whose headscarf was not sufficiently covering her hair.
The video prompted outrage on social media and the interior ministry vowed an investigation, but also implied the woman may have provoked the violence by swearing at the police.
Rouhani did not refer directly to the case, but appeared to use it to criticize recent efforts to clamp down on social media networks.
“Mobiles are the way to promote virtue and prohibit vice. I don’t know why some people don’t like mobile phones or social networks,” he said.
“They don’t like people having information. They think if people are in total ignorance, they can sleep better at night.
“Being informed is people’s right... Criticism is people’s right,” he said. “Let people live their lives.”
There is mounting pressure to block foreign social media networks such as Telegram, which are the only way to spread information critical of Iran’s Islamic system.
But Rouhani said uncensored networks were vital to the economy, and warned that the Islamic revolution of 1979 would ultimately be judged by the regime’s behavior toward its people.
“If our behavior has gotten worse (since 1979), then this revolution is on the wrong path. The fundamental purpose of the revolution is to respect people and solve their problems,” he said.
“Whatever we want to do, if we convince people rather than threaten them... we will succeed.”
The morality police have been far less visible in cities since Rouhani came to power in 2013, and Tehran’s police chief claimed in December that a softer line was being taken on breaches of Islamic code such as clothing rules, with an emphasis on “education” rather than detention.
But thousands of cases are still brought against women for breaching clothing rules, and a former police chief, General Hossein Sajedinia, said in April 2016 that 7,000 undercover morality police were operating in the capital.


UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

Updated 41 min 55 sec ago
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UN chief urges Lebanon’s Hezbollah to halt military wing and operations

UNITED NATIONS: Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly criticized Hezbollah for operating as the most heavily armed militia and a political party in Lebanon and urged the militant group to halt military activities inside and outside the country, including in Syria.
In a report to the Security Council obtained Monday by The Associated Press, Guterres also called on Lebanon’s government and armed forces “to take all measures necessary to prohibit Hezbollah and other armed groups from acquiring weapons and building paramilitary capacity” outside the authority of the state.
He said Hezbollah’s military activity violates a 2004 Security Council resolution ordering all Lebanese militias to disarm and the Taif Accords that ended the country’s 1975-90 civil war. In the semi-annual report on implementation of the 2004 resolution, the secretary-general said Hezbollah’s engagement in the Syrian conflict also violates Lebanon’s official policy of “disassociation,” or neutrality in regional affairs.
Guterres said the report demonstrates Hezbollah’s failure to disarm and “its refusal to be accountable” to state institutions that the UN resolution sought to strengthen.
“In a democratic state, it remains a fundamental anomaly that a political party maintains a militia that has no accountability to the democratic, governmental institutions of the state but has the power to take that state to war,” he said.
Israel and Lebanon have been in a state of war for decades and do not have diplomatic relations. In the summer of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah militants fought a monthlong war.
The border with Israel has remained mostly quiet since then, but Guterres said an alleged increase in Hezbollah’s arsenal poses “a serious challenge” to the Lebanese government’s ability to exercise authority and sovereignty over the entire country.
“I call upon countries in the region that maintain close ties with Hezbollah to encourage the transformation of the armed group into a solely civilian political party, and its disarmament,” Guterres said.
He did not name Iran, a strong supporter of Hezbollah in Syria and elsewhere. Both are strong supporters of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Guterres said Hezbollah’s military arsenal and involvement in Syria continue “to be denounced by a number of voices in Lebanon, who consider those issues to be destabilizing factors in the country and ones that undermine democracy.”
In addition, he said, “many Lebanese see the continued presence of such arms as an implicit threat that those could be used within Lebanon for political reasons.”
Hezbollah is considered a terrorist group by the United States, but its political wing has long held seats in Lebanon’s parliament and was part of Lebanon’s outgoing coalition government.
Parliamentary elections earlier this month were the first in Lebanon since war broke out in Syria in 2011 and Hezbollah made major gains. Its leader, Hassan Nasrallah declared “mission accomplished.”
Nonetheless, Lebanese analysts say the next Cabinet, like the outgoing one, will likely be a unity government that includes Hezbollah.