Iranian app helps users avoid morality police
Fri 12 Feb 2016
Gershad, a new smartphone application rapidly gaining popularity in Iran, helps users avoid checkpoints set up by Iranian morality police.
The app, which is trending on social media (although download statistics are not currently available), allows users to tag the location of morality police checkpoints on a map and share the locations with other users. The morality police enforce Islamic dress and behavior codes with random checkpoints which can be difficult to avoid. Gershad helps users to avoid encounters with morality police by publishing locations of checkpoints.
The name Gershad is a contraction of Gashte Ershad, or ‘guidance patrol’. According to the Gershad team, avoiding the morality police is difficult, and tiresome especially for young Iranian women. “Technology has created an amazing opportunity to forge a cooperative solution to common social problems,” and while Iranian authorities blocked the app soon after release, it is still available to many users who are able to circumvent internet restrictions by using VPNs to download apps.
Iran has a very youthful population, with half of its people aged 25 and under. These Iranians have been eager to embrace technological innovations. Smartphone messaging is increasingly a preferred form of communication, particularly the messaging app Telegram which has a focus on security and privacy. While some hardliners decry the infiltration of western culture, many others are hopeful that the upcoming elections on February 26 could lead to a more moderate legislature and a relaxing of cultural standards in Iran.
Gershan is just one example of the way that technology can help to forward social change in restrictive Iranian society. Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, said of Gershan, “This is an innovative idea and I believe it will lead to many other creative apps which will address the gap between society and government in Iran.”
While concerns have been raised on social media regarding the use of Gershad in Iran, where social media users are frequently arrested for posting content considered by authorities to be immoral, or subversive, others see Gershad and similar apps to be a form of digital protest against authoritarian restrictions and requirements