Iranian authorities are setting up text-messaging services to allow self-appointed guardians of morality in the capital turn in their neighbours or strangers for violating murky codes of public conduct, officials have said.

Iran’s judiciary has provided residents of the capital with a text-messaging service to report “crimes against morality and public chastity,” according to the official Mizan news agency.

Meanwhile an interior ministry official, responding to public demands by hardliners, said Tehran police planned to provide a service to allow residents to drop a dime on those they deem insufficiently obedient to public morality rules imposed by the country’s fundamentalist clergy.

“People would like to report those breaking the norms but they don’t know how,” Mohammad Mehdi Haj-Mohammadi, a judiciary spokesman told Mizan. “We decided to accelerate dealing with instances of public immoral act.”

Mizan, official news platform for Iran’s judiciary, said the messaging service could be used for those to turn in women removing their Islamic headscarves in their vehicles, hosting mixed-gender parties, drinking alcohol, or posting anything “immoral” to social media, such as Instagram.

The term, “people,” when used by hard-liners, often refers to the tiny but vocal faction that make up the regime’s most strident supporters, and who are often beneficiaries of university placements, discount groceries, and government posts. Iran’s leaders attempt to justify to harsh control over social life by referring to both Islamic strictures and the public will.

The text-messaging instruments, first unveiled over the weekend, suggest the regime is attempting to intimidate its many domestic opponents, but also consolidate its support among the narrow sliver of extremists who comprise its shock troops. The country faces unprecedented pressure as United States sanctions begin to bite, and authorities may fear public disorder as the economy contracts.

Mahsa Alimardani, a researcher on Iranian Internet working with the advocacy group ARTICLE19 and the Oxford Internet Institute, said the new measures likely violated constitutional privacy protections and a newly formed draft Data Protection Act, and predicted they would largely be ignored by ordinary Iranians.

She likened the text message scheme to a European country encouraging its citizens to text police anytime they suspected someone was an ISIS member.

“No one I know would go near such a ridiculous thing, but I assume some folks will get involved,” she said. “It’s definitely concerning, and signals a fear that the Islamic Republic of Iran’s ‘morality’ norms have indeed failed to entrench themselves in society.”

Police in Tehran on Saturday also announced the shuttering of 547 restaurants and cafes for on allegations of failing to observe “Islamic principles” and the arrest seven alleged violators over the previous 10 days. Infractions included playing “illegal” music, debauchery, and “inappropriate” online advertising.

Last week Iranian officials announced a scheme to hire 2,000 female police officers in the Caspian Sea province of Gilan to crack down on publicly women removing their headscarves in an 18-month campaign of defiance inspired by New York-based Iranian exile activist Masih Alinejad.

Source » independent