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Boxer Shot by Iran’s Morality Police For Wife’s ‘Improper Hijab’

Iranian boxer Reza Moradkhani after he was shot by a hijab police. iranintl.com
Iranian boxer Reza Moradkhani after he was shot by a hijab police. iranintl.com

An Iranian court dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former Iranian boxing champion and member of boxing national team, who was shot by the Islamic Republic’s regime morality police after they stopped him together with his wife for her “improper hijab.”

Reza Moradkhani was shot several times by the Islamic Republic’s morality police in Tehran’s Pardisan Park in late April, after the officers harassed his wife for wearing improper head scarf and even pepper-sprayed his 11-month-old daughter, according to those familiar with the case. 

The actions of the regime forces generated outrage from ordinary Iranian civilians, as it resulted in the boxing champion receiving massive abdominal surgery and the possibility of one year disability.

According to the accounts of the incident, as Moradkhani and his wife Maria Arefi were going for a stroll in Pardisan Park with their 11-month-old daughter, a morality police car stopped in front of Maria, asking for her national ID number to look up any vice issues in the system. When Moradkhani intervened and questioned the officer’s actions, several other police officers told him not to interfere, leading to an argument between Moradkhani and the morality police. The officers then got out of the car and separated the spouses, with Maria holding their child.

While one of the morality police officers tried to calm everybody down, another officer continued to curse at both Maria and insult Moradkhani, pepper spraying him in the face, while splashing it on his wife and daughter because of his objection to the officer’s insults. Ordinary Iranians in the park who witnessed this gathered around Moradkhani after the police officer fired gunshots in the air, shooting Moradkhani with several shots in his body and two to his legs. The police officer then continued to hit the boxer in the face with his feet, resulting in additional bodily injuries .

The interaction between the boxer and the morality police resulted in commotion with people screaming and videotaping the incident, while others called for an ambulance. The police officers chased several Iranians, seizing their phones and deleting their photos and video clips that showed the officer’s brutal actions. Several citizens headed to the nearby police station and filed complaints against the officers.

Since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the IRGC has established a police unit with the task of ensuring that citizens uphold Islamic code of conduct in public. The task of the officers is to ensure that women wear the hijab “correctly” and cover their hair, body, and discourage any cosmetics whatsoever. Should an Iranian male or female break the Islamic code of conduct, the morality police are required to impose fines and arrest members of the public but have also used brutal force against individuals who question the officers and their charges.

When the Iranian boxer and his wife decided to bring legal action against the police officers, they did not say anything about the incident, fearing that Iran’s judiciary system would not be fair to them. While in the hospital, police and judiciary officials visited Moradkhani and promised the boxer that they would take care of everything. However, the Iranian morality police soon filed a lawsuit against the couple citing unveiling, resisting arrest, and other unstained charges.

Jason Brodsky, a policy director of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), described the incident as “horrifyingly emblematic of the twisted Iranian judicial system. The authorities appear more concerned about the hijab than they are about police brutality against Iranian citizens. Athletes have been fleeing Iran in droves and participating under the banner of other national teams.”

Iranian scholar and commentator Alireza Nader explained that the morality police’s actions show the “brutality of the Islamic Republic, a totalitarian system unconcerned for the rights of Iranian citizens and also shows that the regime is able to operate without any accountability.”

“Simply put, there is no justice in Iran,” according to Nader.

In the end, the military court ruled against the couple, charging them with removing the hijab and attacking a police officer. 

Given his current conditions, Moradkhani is now unable to continue coaching Iranian boxing due to the injuries he sustained. For many Iranians familiar with the Islamic Republic’s judicial system, the surprise ruling is not a shock, given that the regime has had a history of protecting and covering up its security forces.

Brodsky argues that the U.S., Europe, and human rights organizations should “publicize these incidents to demonstrate the suffocating security landscape in the Islamic Republic. Human rights should not be an afterthought when dealing with the Islamic Republic but a primary agenda item with all other aspects of Iranian malign behavior--nuclear and non-nuclear.”

Many human rights groups and activists point out that Iran’s morality police have caused numerous human rights violations and have led to the deaths and injuries of ordinary Iranians who question the regime’s hardline practice of Islamic law. Iranian women who have protested the Islamic Republic in the past and presently by chanting anti-regime slogans, taking over their hijabs, and talking back to the Islamic officials have been targeted, beaten, arrested, and even killed by the morality police for violating Islamic law.

In recent days, the Islamic Consultative Assembly has decided to review a law in which armed forces like the morality police would have more freedom to use firearms at all confrontations, leading to more aggressive actions against people like Moradkhani and his wife.

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