New app helps young Iranians avoid ‘morality police’

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Source: Reuters

A new smartphone application that helps Iranians dodge the Islamic Republic’s “morality police” is proving popular with the young, tech-savvy population but has quickly fallen foul of the authorities.

The Gershad app allows users who spot checkpoints set up by the morality police, who enforce Islamic dress and behavior codes, to tag their location on a Google map with an icon of a bearded man, enabling others to steer clear of them.

The app was blocked by the authorities soon after it was released for Android devices on Monday but many Iranians bypass Internet restrictions by using a Virtual Private Network.

It is already trending on social media and has received almost 800 reviews on the Google Play app store, nearly all of them positive, although Google Play does not show how many times Gershad had been downloaded.

Gershad is seen by some as setting a precedent for “digital protest” in Iran as elections loom and the country emerges from years if isolation following the lifting of international sanctions imposed over its nuclear program.

“Technology has created an amazing opportunity to forge a cooperative solution to common social problems,” Gershad’s secretive creators said in an email exchange with Reuters.

Gershad is a contraction of the full title of the Gashte Ershad (guidance patrol), which is part of efforts to purge Western culture from the country following the Islamic revolution which overthrew a Western-backed king in 1979.

“For years the morality police have been causing disturbances for Iranian women,” the Gershad team said. “Avoiding them in the streets, metro stations and in shopping malls is challenging and tiresome.”

Iranian officials have not commented on Gershad but state broadcaster IRIB said the app had been written about on social media and “networks opposed to the (Islamic) revolution”.

“This is an innovative idea and I believe it will lead to many other creative apps which will address the gap between society and government in Iran,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

Ghaemi said the app’s developers were based outside Iran but had grown up in the country and experienced the problem first hand.

“It’s really an indigenous product… these are the kind of people who have been stopped at checkpoints,” he said.


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2 replies

  1. While Iran and Saudi Arabia seem to have a ‘morality police’ to ensure that ladies’ hairs are covered France (and some other countries) are now going to introduce an ‘anti-morality police’ to spot those ladies that dear to wear the prohibited Burka. Rumors have it that the French Interior Minister has already started negotiations with Iran and Saudi Arabia to train the relevant police officers in France. The duty is the same, just using the opposite criteria.

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