Don’t be quick to judge the makers of this app, who remain anonymous till this moment, they are providing a great service to youths in Iran who live for the most part in fear of the country’s notorious morality police known in Persian as “Ershad”.
Imagine for a second you planned a night-out with your girls or boys as the case may be and you have this get up that you have possibly imagined yourself in, even creating scenarios where it made someones jaw drop or appealed to the love of your life. Just as the thought is taking root and a smile begins to inch steadily across your face, your thought process is interrupted by common sense that informs you that you could possibly run into one of the many Ershad’s mobile checkpoints scattered across the city. Well you’re incredibly courageous so you prevail over common sense and run with your fantasies, stepping out decked in all your finery.
It’s a real pity your fantasies won’t be able to help you a few seconds or hours later as it may be when the morality police do indeed get a hold of you. The Ershad’s mobile checkpoints which normally consist of a van, a few bearded men and one or two women in black chadors appear with no notice and each personnel has an elaborate, extensive list of powers that cover a lot, from issuing warnings, forcing those they accuse of violating Iran’s Islāmic dress code to write statements pledging never to do so again, levying fines and even the possibility of a prosecution. You better believe your plans for the night are officially foiled and discarded.
Well welcome new local phone app “Gershad”, alerting users to Ershad checkpoints and helping them avoid Ershads by choosing a different route, you may just have met your night saver. The data for the app is crowd sourced, it relies on the self-same users to point out the location of Ershad vans on maps and when a sufficient number of users have specified the same point, an alert will show up on the map for the other users. As the number decreases, the alert gradually fades out.
A statement on their webpage exposes the motive of these anonymous app developers; “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.”
According to them, in 2014 alone, around three million people were issued official warnings, 18,000 were prosecuted and more than 200,000 were made to write formal pledges of repentance.
Now of course there are a number of differing views as to whether the Gershad app should be considered a good innovation, some of which may have risen in your mind as you read this article. Foremost of those is general security, but it is important to note in the defense of both the developers of the app and every youth that downloads and uses it; the offences which the Ershad patrol looks out for ranges from wearing too much makeup in public, too little Hijab or head cover for women and supposed western influenced hair style and trendy clothing for men. Infact, if you’re caught walking or riding with the opposite sex, you still could end up being stopped, questioned and prosecuted by Ershad because that’s another violation of Islamic code of conduct.
Just looking at that list, the ultimate conviction is open to so much interpretation dependent on personal perspective, that injustice is practically guaranteed, I guess the best we can do is wish both sides luck.