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
0

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.


Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident. (AP)
Updated 40 min 6 sec ago
0

Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

  • The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish

CAIRO: Extremist militants on Thursday kidnapped a Christian man traveling in a taxi in the turbulent north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to security officials, an incident that raises the specter of renewed attacks on minority Christians in the region after a two-year lull.

The officials did not identify the man, but said police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident, killing one of them and wounding two others in a firefight, but could not free the hostage. Two policemen were also wounded in the firefight, said the officials.

There was no word on whether any of the other passengers traveling in the taxi, a minibus, were harmed, suggesting that the kidnapping of the Christian man could have been planned. 

The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish, northern Sinai’s largest city, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A spate of attacks on Christians in northern Sinai in late 2016 and early 2017 forced nearly 300 families to flee their homes there and find refuge elsewhere in Egypt. 

Those killed included a cleric, workers, a doctor and a merchant. The last Christian to be killed in Sinai was in January 2018, when militants gunned him down as he walked on the street in El-Arish.

The militants, now led by Daesh, say they are punishing the Christians for their support of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, whose ancient church is the country’s predominant Christian denomination, is a close ally of El-Sisi, who has made sectarian harmony a cornerstone of his domestic policy. 

El-Sisi’s patronage of the community has given Christians a measure of protection but did little to protect them from radicals, particularly in regions south of Cairo where Christians are a sizable minority.

Since 2016, Daesh militants have killed more than 100 Christians in attacks targeting churches and buses carrying pilgrims to remote desert monasteries. 

Also on Thursday, according to the officials, suspected militants sneaked into the parking lot of the main hospital in the city of Rafah on the Sinai border with the Gaza Strip and torched two vehicles before escaping. 

The incident was the latest in a recent spate of violent incidents in Rafah, most of whose residents have been evicted and compensated over the past year to deny the militants hiding places.

Nearly a year ago, the government threw into the battle against the Sinai militants thousands of troops, heavy armor, helicopter gunships and jet fighters in a bid to end the insurgency. 

The operation has significantly reduced the number of attacks and restored a near total normal life in El-Arish, on the Mediterranean coast.