An anonymous group of Iranian app developers have come up with an innovative way around the notorious morality police in the country, the Gasht-e-Ershad, or Guidance Patrol. ‘Gershad,’ a crowdsourced app was released to alert its users of the various checkpoints of the Ershad and help them plan their route avoiding their location. What exactly amounts as ‘improper’ is open for interpretation of the officers, right from a loosely worn hijab and too much makeup, to what they see as ‘too western’ hairstyles and ‘trendy’ clothing for men, the list of alleged offences made by the Ershad is quite large.
A branch of the security forces that’s co-directed by the Revolutionary Guards and Interior Ministry, Ershad have subjected numerous Iranian men and women to harassment and arrests for alleged inappropriate public behaviour in violation of what they perceive to be the Islamic code of conduct.
In 2014 itself, the app designers claim approximately three million people were issued with a number of official warnings, 18,000 people were prosecuted and over 200,000 were to made to formal pledges of repentance. “Why do we have to be humiliated for our most obvious right, which is the right to wear what we want? 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,” reads a statement on the app’s webpage. "Police need to provide security for the citizens not to turn into a factor for fear. A while ago, angry with such unreasonable oppressions, we looked for a solution to find a practical way to resist the volume of injustices peacefully with low risk level, to restore part of our freedom."
The app is pretty simple in its composition and functioning. Being crowdsourced, it relies on the input data of its users who check-in their location to point out Ershad vans spotted on the streets, and when a fair amount of people point to the same location, an alert shows up on the map for everyone else to see, ensuring that reliable data is being published. The alert gradually fades from the map once the number decreases.
Feature image courtesy International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran