Screenshots from the Iranian app "Gershad," intended to help civilians avoid the morality police..
(photo credit: screenshot)
A crowdsourcing app has been developed by an anonymous group of Iranian programmers to help youth avoid the Gasht-e-Ershad, or as they are more commonly known as the "Ershad," Iran's notorious morality police, according to reports by the BBC.
The morality police are sent out in small teams throughout the country with no prior warning given to the public and are entrusted with the task of catching citizens in violation of Iran's Islamic code of conduct.
The app, entitled "Gershad," allows users to pinpoint on a map where the morality police officers are out on patrol to help those potentially in violation of the Islamic law to avoid the area.
The user interface features a map with small cartoon officers dressed in white and brown used to mark the police locations. Users can report a patrol by pinpointing the location on the map as well as confirm or negate reported positions. Reports that are confirmed several times are pushed to users in the area, suggesting a they find a different route or they may have a run in with the police. Once a specific location stops receiving reports, the officer icon slowly fades from the map.
According to the BBC report, the Gershad creators explained their motives in creating the app as a way to prevent humiliation for the most basic of human rights.
"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," the app developers explained on their web page according to the report.
"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 Ershad hold the power to issue warning against violation of Iran's Islamic law, as well as the ability to force those accused of being in violation to sign a written statement declaring they will never do so again. The morality police can also issue fines and prosecute violators.
Offenses include wearing too much makeup, not wearing a hijab, and walking in public with a friend of the opposite sex.
According to a report by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, Police Spokesman Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi reported that during the Persian year ending in March 2014, the police “obtained 207,053 pledges from norm-breakers [women who had not sufficiently observed strict hijab wearing] in writing [to observe the law], referred 18,081 cases to the Judiciary, and gave warning and guidance to 2,917,000 other norm-breakers.”
The app has become extremely popular with young, more fashion forward and modern Iranians on social media, reported the BBC, as many users praised the efforts of the Gershad programmers and their attempts at protecting basic rights.
"I don't really care if the application works or not but each download is a protest," wrote one twitter user according to the BBC report.
Others are more concerned for their safety, questioning the level of anonymity and whether or not the person who reports the location of the Ershad can then be traced.
"This is a good and interesting idea. I just hope that the security level is also high so that no one can track down the person who reported the location of Ershad," wrote another Twitter user.
According to the Human Rights in Iran report, within just a few hours of its release, the app, available only to android users, had over 1,000 downloads and new coding was being added to increase user security.