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Where Rape Only Begins the Violation


22 Jun 2011 23:39Comments
98178_416.jpgHow the Islamic Republic excuses and exploits sexual violence against women.

[ opinion ] She is a mother of two, with a drug-addicted husband. She was taken from the car she was in with a male companion and dragged into a wheat field. Her companion was beaten to the edge of death. She was beaten and raped with a knife to her throat. She was raped by 50 men.

This is not a scene from a Freddy Krueger movie. This is what happened to Monireh on April 22. The horrific gang rape took place in Ghoojd, a village near the city of Kashmar in Khorasan Razavi province. Located in northeastern Iran, the region is considered one of the country's most religious; the provincial capital, Mashhad, hosts the tomb of Imam Reza, Shiites' Eighth Imam.

On June 18, Tabnak became one of the first websites to report on Monireh's story, nearly two months after the attack took place.

Khabar Online was quick to follow, interviewing an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps "judicial apprehender" -- a marshal of sorts -- named Mostafa Qoreishi about the incident. "Nearly a month and a half ago the people of Ghoojd contacted [marshals] and reported a gang rape in the fields outside their village," he said. "Basij forces were dispatched and they arrested a number of suspects, transferring them to the relevant precinct. But because the rape victim had been moved to another location by the rapists, there was no complaint [officially] lodged and the suspects were released."

Qoreshi went on to say that judicial officials had reprimanded the Basij forces for bringing in suspects in the absence of a complainant. He added that a few days later, after the victim received treatment for her injuries, she filed a complaint and "as the case was about rape it was referred to the provincial criminal court in Mashhad. The prosecutor then sent police to the village of Ghoojd and they arrested some of the suspects and transferred them to Vakil Aband Prison in Mashhad."

The question that every Iranian must ask is why did the police step in so late to do their job, which is to protect the people? And why were rape suspects arrested by the Basij allowed to walk free because the victim was not physically there to file a complaint? By such logic, murder victims must resurrect themselves, drag their bloody corpses into the nearest precinct, and inform authorities that they have been slain so that their cases may be heard and their killers brought to justice.

When improper hejab is considered a crime with consequences so grave no complainant is required for the police to step in and apprehend dress code violators, surely the worst imaginable crime against a woman, committed in broad daylight, should not require an official complaint to be investigated.

The Kashmar governor, who swept in for damage control, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency on June 19 that within 48 hours of the crime, the rapists had been arrested and that "three of the suspects were released due to lack of evidence and 11 others are currently being held in Mashhad's Vakil Abad Prison." He offered no explanation as to why after nearly two months only 11 of the 50 rapists had been arrested.

The inability of the police to bring in these violent criminals is astonishing. There were obviously witnesses to the crime, for they reported it even before the victim filed a complaint, and there are not that many places to hide in a small locale such as Ghoojd, where everyone knows everyone else.

News about the Kashmar gang rape came on the heels of the gang rape in Khomeini Shahr near Isfahan, where according to the Iranian media 14 thugs raided a private party and raped a dozen women after beating and tying up the men present.

The gang rape in Khomeini Shahr has largely been blamed on the victims, as a piece by Leili Mohseni on the Alef website -- run by Ahmad Tavakoli, a prominent member of the Iranian parliament -- illustrates. "Those thugs who were aroused by the erotic sounds coming from the garden in Khomeini Shahr are not the only ones to blame for that event," she writes. "That family that [sexually] aroused those young men with their behavior are also guilty." Mohseni adds that all those who oppose the police war on satellite dishes are also complicit in the Khomeini Shahr gang rape, one of whose victims was as young as 12. And Mohseni is not the only one who blamed the victims. An array of authority figures from the police to men of cloth have also accused the innocent women who were raped of asking for it.

It might be assumed that the Kashmar crime could hardly be regarded in the same manner. It took place in a field by a small, rural community. There was no party and no alcoholic beverages were being served. Monireh was a village woman and, considering her background, she could not plausibly have been sporting any indecent attire to "arouse" her attackers.

Yet Islamic Republic officials hint that she, too, was responsible for the sexual assault she suffered. Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi, considered a Marja (source of emulation) and a leading voice in the call for segregation of universities, harsher crackdown on hejab violators, and repressing women's rights in general, opined that this bitter incident -- like other rapes -- was the result of improper hejab and the mingling of the sexes among people who are related to one another neither by marriage nor birth.

The Islamic Republic has done a very effective job in reducing "rape" (tajavoz) to just another word in the Persian vocabulary -- it is repeatedly used to describe the act of any country attacking another, while aggressors of all stripes are routinely called "rapists" (motejavez).

What the ayatollahs cannot admit is that rape is not a crime about sex, but rather about power and domination. No amount of hair peeking out from under a headscarf can incite a sexual assault. At the least, blaming the victim is an excuse, a means to cover up the incompetence of the Islamic system of governance. Worse, and likely, it will lead to the spread of this heinous crime and women's further social marginalization as the ayatollahs exploit these crimes as a pretext to push their agenda to remove women from the social realm "for their own safety."

In a press conference on June 20, First Deputy of the Judiciary Hojatoleslam Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi brushed off these appalling gang rapes, refusing to accept that daily life in Iran has become increasingly dangerous for women. "Today in our society," he declared, "there is more safety for women than in Western society. We have the most secure situation in the world and this is not contradicted by corrupt individuals committing acts that are in violation of sharia [religious law], as such instances are quickly investigated."

When asked if any case of rape must be picked up by the press before the judiciary will take action on it, Raisi defiantly replied, "The judiciary is responsible for following up [on criminal cases]. You who ask such a question should take a trip to the criminal court in that town [Kashmar] which has its rape case in the papers, and you will see there are dozens of similar cases that haven't been reported [by the media] and yet they are being investigated!"

This is a chilling revelation from a judicial official and cleric. There has evidently been a host of similar cases of gang rape that have received no press attention. Clearly the Islamic Republic's authorities have not considered it important for Iranian women to know that rapist gangs are on the loose in the country and they are in danger of becoming the next victims.

Gang rapes are not limited to a few provinces. In Golestan, provincial authorities have proudly announced that they are "reopening" the case of the gang rapes of two girls, one of whom was murdered after the assault. They claimed that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.

In the Islamic Republic, justice in most high-profile criminal cases means death by hanging. The sentence is customarily carried out in the early hours of the morning, either behind prison doors with no media in attendance or in public -- such as in the case of the Kaj Square killer -- when the aim is to make an example out of someone. Yet the prospect of capital punishment does not appear to have served as a deterrent, as the number of men participating in gang rapes is, by all available evidence, appears to be soaring.

Ironically, they are committing their crimes in the land dubbed by the ayatollahs as the utopia of Islam, the land of the Hidden Imam, and the place where women's rights are protected in virtuous contrast to the decadent West, where women are objectified to generate revenue for capitalists.

Netizens have resorted to dark humor to deal with these dreadful events, including pledges to wear chastity belts before attending any and all future parties. This does nothing, obviously, to alter the reality of the threat to every woman lurking behind all too many corners.

Iranians must realize that when a judicial official talks casually about the dozens of other cases of gang rape in a small town that have not been publicized, worse crimes have been committed while we were all sleeping. Our having been kept in the dark does not mean it did not happen.

This is not Islamic utopia. Iran is turning into a rapists' amusement park.

Remaining silent in the face of rape will only allow the officials of the Islamic Republic to sweep these heinous crimes under their expensive but filthy Persian rugs as they do the many other abuses of women's rights. Pretending it didn't happen will not return the innocence of that 12-year-old girl violated by thugs in Khomeini Shahr. Pretending it never happened will only pave the way for more victims to be told they are responsible for the crimes committed against them.

To their own lasting shame, the ayatollahs have already -- to use their own sort of language -- raped the nation and condoned the literal rape of imprisoned young protestors after the 2009 election demonstrations. But allowing their incompetence and hatred of women to put the country's name on the map as the gang rape capital of the world will heavily weigh on the conscience of every Iranian.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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