Iran: mass strike starts amid mixed messages about abolishing morality police

Iranian shopkeepers and lorry drivers staged a walkout in nearly 40 cities and towns on Monday after calls for a three-day nationwide general strike from protesters as the government declined to confirm a claim by a senior official that the morality police had been abolished.

Iranian newspapers instead reported an increase in patrols, especially in religious cities, requiring women to wear the hijab, and shop managers being directed by the police to reinforce hijab restrictions. The confusion may be partly due to mixed messages being sent out by a divided regime as it seeks to quell the protests.

Iran has been rocked by 11 weeks of unrest since a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody after being arrested by the morality police. The show of strength in the shop strike satisfied protesters since it demonstrated discontent with the government was still rife in major cities like Tehran, Karaj, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz and Shiraz. Kurdish Iranian rights group Hengaw reported that 19 cities had joined the strike movement in western Iran, where most of the country’s Kurdish population live.

Political prisoners called for the three-day protests to be supported. Posters also appeared in streets urging that the strike be respected. Government officials continued to claim the protests are over, but also admitted many shops had been shut, blaming intimidation that they said would lead to criminal charges….