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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been criticised for the crackdown by the morality policeHandout via Reuters

A human rights activist and member of the Iranian resistance has criticised president Hassan Rouhani for allowing 7,000 new morality police to patrol the streets 'suppressing women'.

Farideh Karimi, a member of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said Rouhani had the power to halt the measures, which have so far carried reports from Tehran of armed police stopping girls as young as 12 for failing to veil 'correctly', despite the president claiming the government could not interfere.

Karimi said: "Suppression of women is further institutionalised in Iran with each passing day. The regime's suppressive institutions are ever more blatantly cracking down on women. This has been a tenet of the mullahs' regime from its outset.

"The addition of 7,000 forces dedicated to the suppression of women and further gender discrimination speaks well of the reality that Hassan Rouhani is no different from the other mullahs and the hopes for an improvement of women's rights in Iran which some had advocated at the start of Rouhani's tenure as President are a mirage."

However, Rouhani this week appeared to distance himself from the crackdown run by the morality police – themselves officially presided over by the country's supreme leader rather than by the government, although they have an opportunity to influence the force via legislation and feedback.

"According to the regime's laws, Rouhani has the authority to halt the new suppressive measures against women," Karimi added. "By refusing to do so, he is in practice endorsing them.

"Let's remember that Rouhani has boasted in his memoires that immediately after the 1979 revolution when he was Chief Supervisor of the Offices and Institutions affiliated to the Iranian Armed Forces he personally issued a directive banning any women who refused to wear the veil from working or even entering into the army offices.

"He brazenly said that at the time he had hoped to lead the way in encouraging other Iranian Ministries to impose similar measures against women. With such a track record, who can really believe that Rouhani in any way respects the rights of Iranian women including the right to freely choose their attire?"

As soon as the crackdown came into effect on 18 April, several posts were shared on social media of women being stopped in their cars – reportedly for playing music too loud or mal-veiling – while one 15-year-old released a harrowing account of being threatened with jail for wearing makeup.

In a statement made this week Rouhani had stressed that it wasn't up to the government to make such moral judgement, saying: "Our first duty is to respect people's dignity and personality. God has bestowed dignity to all human beings and this dignity precedes religion," in comments carried by ISNA.