The Gasht-e Ershad, the “Morality Police”
Wearing your headscarf too daringly in Iran can result in action by the morality police. Police forces tasked with implementing strict state interpretations of Islamic morality exist in several states: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Malaysia.
Hard-liners, including influential clerics, have repeatedly spoken out against it.
They focus on ensuring observance of hijab - mandatory rules requiring women to cover their hair and bodies and discouraging cosmetics.
Women’s cycling in Iran has become a metaphor for the right to choose. The room recreates the oppression, threat and frustration brought by the Morality Police.
Enter by finding your way through the criticism, abuse, and conflict, only to find that something is still keeping the goal out of reach.
See the faces of those who are affected alongside those fighting for change.
Entry to the room is a ramp leading up to a raised platform into an open space. Visitors must find their way through all the hijabs hanging down like theatre curtains. The hijabs show printed quotes and opinions from protestors and hard-liners, which came up in the research for and against the freedom of choice.
The space contains images and artefacts that tell the story of the situation in the countries where the Morality Police enforce the wearing of the hijab. Large-scale banners cover the walls behind the screens; the imposing messages surround the visitor.
The main feature inside the room is a giant sculpture of a bicycle. However, the visitors can’t see the bike as it is draped in black fabric. Anyone who tries to lift or remove the material sets off alarms representing reactions towards the cyclists from the hard-liners.
A call to prayer plays to symbolise the duality of religion. Do you genuinely believe in faith and show honest loyalty to the church, or do you submit to it to avoid the oppression and segregation demonstrated by this room’s message?
Walkthrough: Describing the key points and visual features of the room
Above: Detail inside inside the room. The figures next to the fabric-covered bicycle sculpture show a sense of scale.
Above: The view of the right-hand wall shows the tear-off statements and portraits showing the women with and without their hijab. Visitors are encouraged to take a copy of everything to add to the exhibition scrapbooks.
It looks great! Wish it would become an actual exhibition! (So do we…)
Marina Jaber - Iraqi artist, activist and women's rights advocate. Project contributor.