New app designed to help Iranians avoid morality police

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App developers in Iran have come up with Gershad. It’s a way citizens – especially young people – can access information about where notorious morality police are patrolling.

The morality police, or guidance, are known in Persian as “Ershad”. They’re a branch of the security forces. And they’re found at checkpoints, routinely subjecting Iranians to harassment and arrests for alleged inappropriate public behaviour.

This especially includes women, for wearing “bad hijab” – what morality police see as failing to properly observe modest Islamic covering. But with the Gershad app, users can mark spots on maps of places – such as the capital Tehran – where they’ve seen officers. And they can warn other potential targets, like fashion-conscious youths.

So how does the app work exactly?

Well, it relies on crowdsourcing. The developers write in their Google Play store description: “Location information is reported by the citizens themselves… their accuracy depends on you.”

And the people behind the app also explain their motives: “Social media networks and websites are full of footage and photos of innocent women who have been beaten up and dragged on the ground by the Ershad patrol agents.”

Ershad can also force citizens to make written statements pledging to never break the Islamic code of conduct again. But how big is the problem this app is trying to combat?

According to the people behind Gershad, law enforcement meant 18,000 people were forced to “give a written declaration sent to the court”.

They write: “Police need to provide security to citizens and not panic.” And they say this app is the solution that came to mind when they wanted to find a way to resist injustice.

People seem to be downloading the app – it’s had over 400 5* reviews on the Google Play store already.

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