Iran Has 7,000-Strong Undercover Vice Squad Patrolling Tehran's Streets

Veiled Iranian women in Tehran
Veiled Iranian women attend a conservatives campaign gathering for parliamentary elections and the vote on the Assembly of Experts in Tehran, February 24. Iran has arrested eight women for posing without headscarves on photo-sharing platform Instagram. Reuters/Raheb Homavandi/TIMA

Iranian police have established a vast network of thousands of undercover officers tasked with reporting on moral violations in the Islamic Republic's capital, Tehran's police chief said on Monday.

Some 7,000 vice agents have been deployed to Tehran's streets to tackle sub-standard veiling by women as well as crimes such as anti-social behavior, General Hossein Sajedinia told Mizan Online, the official news agency of the country's judiciary.

He said that the "undercover patrols will confront implicit transgressions in the city," AFP news agency reported.

"Confronting bad hijab and removal of veils inside cars, driving recklessly, parading in the streets, harassing women and stopping noise pollution are the priorities" for the squad, he added.

The agents will not directly confront the transgressors but would inform police of the moral violations by sending license plate numbers by text message and the police would then act.

Covering the head with a hijab is mandatory for women in Iran and the Iranian leadership has attempted since the 1979 revolution to impose conservative ideals on the country's population.

But some women, particularly in Iranian cities, now adorn looser headscarves and wear less conservative dress, pushing the limits of what the country's authorities believe to be acceptable.

According to Central Asian news broadcaster Radio Free Europe, Iranians both within and outside the country took to social media to condemn the squad as more state interference. One user wrote that "Big Brother is watching you!" while another suggested that "too much security can bring insecurity."

February's parliamentary elections in the country saw President Hassan Rouhani and his reformist camp win a vote of confidence from voters, allowing for more reform in the country. The push for reform has been energized by Iran's youthful population, who wish to engage with the world. Almost 60 percent of the country's population of 80 million is under the age of 30.