Anonymous developers have released an app called Gershad to help young Iranians avoid the Gashte Ershad, known as ‘morality police’, who patrol the country’s streets daily.
These officials are on the lookout for women wearing too much makeup or clothes deemed too revealing, as well as men with provocative haircuts or western-style clothing. Punishments range from verbal warnings to formal prosecutions.
The app crowdsources the locations of police officers and displays them on a map so that citizens can avoid them. While the app was blocked by the Iranian government after just 24 hours, supporters continue to find workarounds that allow them to make use of the technology.
Professor Ali Ansari, chair of Middle East studies at the University of St Andrews, said: “The state [in Iran] is always trying to catch up with society, as this app shows. For young Iranians in particular, engagement with technology presents a new level of empowerment. It also demonstrates the ongoing battle between the government and Iranian citizens over how decisions that affect people’s everyday lives are made and enforced.”
Reports indicate that Gershad was downloaded more than 16,000 times in its first week. At the time of writing, the app, its website and its social media accounts were active.