Iranian app helps young teens dodge morality police
Gershad app for Android devices maps out patrol locations so users can avoid them
Developers have released an app intended to help fashion conscious Iranians dodge the country's morality police.
The Ershad, which means "guidance" in Farsi, are charged with enforcing rules such as Islamic dress code and have checkpoints in towns and cities across Iran, at which they often appear at random times and places. They have a "very extensive list of powers", according to the BBC, including forcing those found in breach of their code of conduct to pledge in writing never to do so again, fines and even prosecutions.
Now anonymous developers in the country have created the Android app Gershad, thought to mean "get around Ershad", which shows where the police are patrolling.
The idea is that users reveal where Ershad are operating and when a sufficient amount of reports pinpoint the same checkpoint, it appears on a map. Symbols representing police vehicles grow stronger the more that patrol is reported and then fade and disappear once the coast is clear.
"Why do we have to be humiliated for our most obvious right which is the right to wear what we want?" the developers say on the download page.
The authorities have acted fast to block the crowdsourced app, but many Iranians have turned to proxy servers to bypass the restrictions and download it, says the Daily Mail.
According to The Independent, Gershad is backed by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, who said police had "obtained 207,053 pledges from norm-breakers [women who had not sufficiently observed strict hijab] 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" during the Persian year ending March 2014.
Reaction to the app on social media has been mixed. Some believe each download is "a protest" against the regime, regardless of how effective it may be, but others fear it could have unintended consequences and "disturb police activity.