Waze, Iran-style? New App Helps Women Dodge Modesty Squad

Iran's government is trying to block Gershad, an app that uses crowdsourcing to report locations of morality police patrols.

An image from the Gershad app, which aims to help Iranian women avoid the modesty police.
Facebook screenshot

The Iranian government has reportedly blocked a new app trying to help Iranian citizens – especially women – evade patrols of the morality police, called Ershad in Farsi.

Like Waze and many other apps, the new application for Android that was released on Monday, called Gershad, uses crowdsourcing to report where Iranian morality police patrols are located in order to help other users dodge them.

A display of women's headscarves sits in a shop window in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.
Bloomberg

According to various reports, Gershad was created by local developers who wanted to provide a tool for non-violent resistance against the morality police.

“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,” states the application site, according to a report on the BBC website.

“Police need to provide security for the citizens, not to turn into a factor for fear. A while ago, angry with such unreasonable oppressions, 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.”

Female passengers ride a yellow taxi cab in Tehran, Iran, on Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.
AP

On the My Stealthy Freedom site page, which addresses attitudes towards women in Iran, they wrote about the application and noted that in the past year there were 3.6 million different incidents of women being investigated by the morality police and more than 40,000 cars were confiscated because of violations of the order to wear a hijab.

The topic of the app went viral on Iranian social networks, and according to the BBC it has been welcomed enthusiastically. One commenter wrote, “This is great,” and a Twitter user posted: “I don’t really care if the application works or not but each download is a protest.”

In fact the app has became so popular in a matte of hours that Mehdi Ziari, a writer for the Tasnim news agency, wrote on Twitter on Monday night that the agency’s servers had crashed because of the heavy traffic.

Ziari wrote that the app was not yet blocked, but Dr. Raz Zimmt, a researcher at the Alliance Center for Iranian Studies at Tel-Aviv University and the Forum for Regional Thinking, told Haaretz that during the night there were already reports that the application had been blocked.