Iranian authorities reportedly blocked a new mapping app this week that warns users about where the Iranian regime’s morality police are located, just 24 hours after its launch.
The app — cleverly called “Gershad,” which is short for Gasht-e-Ershad (or Guidance Patrol, more colloquially known as the “morality police”) — only works on Android devices so far. Punishable offenses by Iran’s morality police include wearing too much makeup in public, showing too much hair under the head scarf, or being seen accompanying a friend of the opposite gender.
A user named Mohammad Reza told IranWire that he noticed the app, which was developed by anonymous coders, was blocked by Iranian authorities after using it for a few hours when it launched on Tuesday, noticing that his screen was displaying random characters on it.
According to the BBC, Iran’s Ershad operate in several ways, not the least of which includes checkpoints consisting of a van with several agents, typically a few men and women inside, who pull violators aside and issue warnings around town and randomly inspect vehicles driving by.
The BBC notes that violators are reportedly warned, prosecuted, or forced to write a letter of repentance saying they will never break the rules again. These checkpoints typically consist of a van with a few agents and can move around town at will.
The @Gershadapp is collecting reports from users all over the city & send them back 2 them on the ground 2 avoid the morality police in Iran
— Nima Akbarpour نیما (@nima) February 9, 2016
A statement on Gershad’s Google Play Store web page description reads, “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.”
On Twitter, one user reportedly wrote, “I don’t care whether or not this app works but every download is a protest.”
من اصلا برام مهم نيست اين اپليكيشن كار كنه يا نه ولي هر بار دانلودش يه اعتراضه#گرشاد
— ١٣بدر🌱⛺️🏸🎂 (@elhamjim) February 9, 2016
Meanwhile, the BBC notes that a cleric tweeted: “God has ordered us to encourage people to do good, and forbid them from doing wrong, and the way to do it is not the morality police. But the way to solve the morality police issue is not this app either. I am worried about the impact of this work in the future.”
The app’s Google Play page also indicates that, in 2014, the Ershad stopped and warned more than 3 million people, 207,000 people were forced to write statements, and 18,000 were “sent to court.”
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.