The absence of the morality police from the streets of Tehran and other major Iranian cities in recent months has fueled speculation about the dissolution of the force.
In statements on Saturday evening, Iran’s attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, said the force has been suspended “from the same place where it was established”.
He stressed that the morality force “has nothing to do” with the country’s judiciary, but the judiciary “continues to monitor behavioral actions at the community level”.
Montazeri’s remarks came in response to a question about why the morality police, which has been embroiled in controversy since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September, has been “closed down.”
Although Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raisi, have repeatedly dismissed calls about disbanding the morality force, Montazeri’s remarks suggest the force has chosen to hibernate following the unsavory incident in September that was followed by sweeping protests marred by violence.
Amini, who originally hailed from western Iran, died after being held by the morality police outside a subway station in Tehran in mid-September.
The tragic incident immediately sparked protests in her hometown, which later spread to other parts of the country, resurrecting the long-running debate about the morality police and the mandatory dress code.
The United States and the European Union have in recent months imposed a slew of sanctions on Iranian officials and government entities, including the morality police.
The US Treasury Department in late September sanctioned Iran’s morality police, including seven senior military officials, holding them responsible for Amini’s death.
In October, the EU also imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police and the information minister over their alleged involvement in action against anti-government demonstrations triggered by Amini’s death.
Earlier this week, Montazeri said the parliament, judiciary and a top cultural body are reviewing the issue of mandatory hijab and the results would be announced in two weeks.
“We are working speedily on the issue of the hijab and we are doing our best to evolve a wise solution to deal with this phenomenon that hurts everyone’s heart,” he said on Friday.
Meanwhile, the government and the parliament are set to hold a special session on Sunday to discuss the prevailing situation in the country, with the participation of Raisi and his Cabinet of ministers.