You’ve probably come across smartphone apps that help you steer clear of speed cameras. Now, a group of techies in Iran have developed a bit of software to help their fellow citizens avoid a more pernicious form of law enforcement: the morality police.

Known as Ershad and operating in mobile units in streets, shopping malls and metro stations, the morality police regularly harass and even prosecute Iranians, particularly women, for their purportedly unIslamic behaviour and clothing.

Users of the app are invited to geolocate Ershad patrols, whose presence is then indicated on Google maps with an icon of a bearded man.

‘I believe this will lead to many other creative apps which will address the gap between society and government in Iran,’ says Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.

On their own website, the app’s anonymous developers ask, ‘Why should we give up the most basic right of choosing what clothes to wear?’

Hazel Healy