This paper will further read the contemporaneous developing codified laws on morality in juxtaposition with moral-legal court disputes about prostitutes between 1921-1933, in the immediate aftermath of the formation of the red-light district of Tehran. The aim is to address larger questions about the role of Islam in moral governance, under the so called secularizing Reza Shah Pahlavi’s regime, including: What did it mean for citizens to hold the state accountable to their collective moral sensibilities? How did the state draw the line between private and public moral concerns and what role did Islam play in codified laws on morality, if any? Ultimately, the petitions together with the court cases demonstrate that the red-light district of Tehran, which is today remembered and constructed in the national memory of Iranians as a testimony to Pahlavi’s top-down secular agendas, was actually a product of intense religious mobilization from below.
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