Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Iran has already turned into a country of horror. Citizen of that country, most of who are already fed-up with the fanatics, ruling the country are gradually raising their voice for democracy and end of reign of terror established by Khomeini through his so-called Islamic revolution in 1979.
Murder of civilians under the garb of Sharia law is a regular phenomenon in that country. Press and freedom of expression is seriously suffocated. There are numerous reports of gross human rights violations. Women are raped inside prison by the prison guards, before execution.
I have spent weeks in research to understand, what is going on inside Iran. During past several months, I have gathered information from various articles, blogs, online sources etc to get maximum information on the latest status in Iran. From this article, readers will be able to assess the social decay Iranian is gradually heading towards, due to rogue administration of the Islamist leaders. This is the first part of my article on Iran.
Clerics or pimps:
Iranian clerics or Mullahs, who are at the administration of that country are gradually exposing their nasty faces as mere pimps, who are selling their women to a number of countries as well tourists in that country. Iranian women are continuing to be sold as ‘Jihadist Tools’ to various nations with millions of dollars. While Iranian rulers pretend to treat prostitution or sex trade as taboo since it became Islamic Republic in 1979, it is evidently proved that poor governance of it is not only pushing thousands of Iranians into prostitution, but in many cases, those Mullahs are the ultimate beneficiaries of growing sex trade in that country.
In the 1970s, Bostonians looking for a proverbial good time went to the “Combat Zone” and New Yorkers flocked to 42nd Street; in contemporary Iran, the holy city of Qom is known [unofficially] as a place of “both pilgrimage and pleasure.” There, prostitutes wearing veils and even chadors mill about temples or sit together in public courtyards where men can inspect them. Sometimes a male go-between [most of them are clerics] offer “introductions,” at which point the prostitutes pull aside their headgear so the potential client can get a glimpse, but the whole process is fairly subtle. For an outsider, it’s difficult to pick a street girl out of a crowd. Qom may have become a prostitution hot spot due to the abundance of shrines. Young female runaways with no shelter come to the city knowing they can take refuge at holy sites by sleeping in rooms intended for pilgrims. They have no way of making a living, so after awhile they get involved with the sex trade. The city’s young theological students and transient tourists form the main clientele.
Of course, Qom isn’t the only place in Iran where prostitutes walk the streets. Back in 2002, the Iranian newspaper Entekhab estimated that there were nearly 85,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone. In that city, and especially in nearby suburbs, there are neighborhoods where heavily made-up prostitutes in traditional garb stand idly at traffic circles. Prospective customers drive by slowly to check out the human wares, then make a deal. The visual difference between an ordinary citizen wearing makeup who happens to be standing alone and an actual prostitute is, again, quite subtle. Apparently, mistakes are not uncommon. Officially, the penalties for prostitution are severe—ranging from whipping to execution. But there’s a loophole in the Islamic law called sigheh, or temporary marriage. According to Shiite interpretation, a man and a woman may enter an impermanent partnership with a preset expiration date. There’s no legally required minimum duration [a day, a week, anything goes] and no need for official witnesses—unless the woman is a virgin, in which case she needs the consent of her legal guardian. An Iranian who’s wary of arrest can simply escort a prostitute to a registry, obtain a temporary contract from a Muslim cleric, and then legally satisfy his sexual needs. And here is the point, where clerics get the opportunity of working as the pimp for that woman. In most cases, Iranian mullahs maintain network with national and international prostitution ring, where they supply these women, who possess a temporary marriage certificate [issued by the cleric], giving them the chance of entering the profession with a legal license of Islamic mask.
Prostitutes wear their veils loosely over their heads in a style that passes for risqué in this strictly regulated society. With their faces heavily made up, they stand at traffic circles where men driving by can inspect them and make a deal. The women are often young, including many teenagers who have run away from abusive homes. Based on official figures, there are some 300,000 women who work as prostitutes in Iran. And according to newspapers, the number is steadily rising. Now, some senior religious figures are suggesting the only way to solve the problem is to bring it under state control. In recent times, several prominent conservative clerics have proposed that prostitutes be placed in government-run shelters for destitute women to be called “chastity houses,” where male customers could briefly marry them under Islamic law. Proponents of the idea argue that it would “eradicate social corruption” by legitimizing sexual relations between the men and women. Under the plan, the couples would register for a temporary marriage under Iran’s Shiite religious law code. The code allows a man to marry a woman for a mutually agreed time as short as a few hours by reciting a verse from the Koran. Backing the plan, Ayatollah Mohammed Mousavi Bojnurdi, said: “We face a real challenge with all these women on the street. Our society is in an emergency situation. Hojatolislam Mohammed Taghi Fazel-Meibodi, a member of Qom Seminary, told RFE/RL’s Persian Service that the proposal is religiously legal.
He said, “Our young people are troubled. There is poverty, unemployment, and more and more girls are escaping from their homes. In a society where there are sharp differences between rich and poor, rich men will use these poor girls for a quick thrill and to satisfy their impulses and lust.”
Supporting the temporary marriage system, Iranian clerics say, such marriage helps easing social discontent among young men who are forced by the struggling economy to marry later. The socialist-style economy is unable to provide sufficient numbers of new jobs to absorb the large numbers of young men entering the market and is plagued by double-digit inflation and unemployment. As a result, many young men are unable to afford to start families, and the average marrying age has jumped from the early 20s, common two decades ago, to about 30 today.
Women’s groups have been particularly outspoken about the idea of “chastity houses.” Shahrbanou Amani, a female parliamentarian, called the idea of establishing “Chastity House” as “an insult and disrespectful to women.” The Cultural Council for Women, a liberal Islamist women’s group, said such houses would be a “deceitful and thinly disguised” form of prostitution.
Temporary marriage’s or sighe phenomenon became common state in Iran after Mullah’s regime had legalized this kind of marriage and made it a legal marriage throughout Iran through establishing offices to arranging that marriage for persons who seek it. Mullah’s regime appointed clerics in these offices who intervene to conducting this marriage for persons who seek a sex under that marriage. If we contemplated well in concept of the temporary marriage or sighe Mullah’s regime created and gave legal religious feature, so we would find that this marriage is a kind of masked prostitution women were used through due to their hard social and economical conditions to practice a sex with men who seek it where most women, who live under hard social and economical conditions within their community, are pressured on under these bad conditions to practice this kind of marriage for money where this marriage don’t last than 1 hour to several hours.
On other hand, women, who practiced this marriage for many times with men, became unapproved for permanent marriage among their community and get discriminations in getting opportunities to the permanent marriage than their peers of others women among community in this case they became as fair slaves in the old ages who were used only for sex where female slave has no right in emancipating from her slavery and choosing her life partner she would live with him rest of her life term to creating the family. So, under this kind of marriage, mullah’s regime turned Iranian woman into sex slave is sold and bought as women were sold and bought in the dark ages, this case is not strange for Islamists ruling Iran today as their old Arabic predecessors did when they invaded Persia before 1400 years ago and enslaved its women and transferred them to Arabic regions at the time to be sold in markets of these regions, so, that mullahs ruling Iran now do again same thing their Arab ancestors did before 1400 years. Mullah regime’s goal of temporary marriage [sighe] is a using Iranian woman for cheap and illegal prostitution to saturating the sexual desires for clerics and officials underground and giving the legitimate feature for these sexual abuses clerics and officials committed against Iranian women in the name of religion. Mullah’s regime made that marriage as an approach for clerics, officials and members of revolutionary guards to getting the cheap and illegal sex. These are the rights mullah’s regime gave to Iranian woman where that regime turned her from free woman and she was enjoy her entire civil rights under Shah’s time into female slave who is pressured on under using her hard social and economical conditions to practice the prostitution or temporary marriage to satisfying the base sexual desires for clerics and official in Iranian government in the process, There are many scandals happened for clerics and top officials in Mullah’s regime who abused Iranian women sexually using the bad living conditions for those women resulted from poverty and homelessness and family problems and one of these scandals for these abuses is which happened during Khatami’s presidency of Iran when it was exposed about implicating top members in the revolutionary guards and officials in abuse prisoners women in one of corrections which is located in Karj city where some of those prisoners women were taken in night from that correction by vehicles of revolutionary guards and governmental cars into houses of those officials to saturating their sexual desires and they were returned to correction in the next day. In the name of temporary marriage and what included that marriage from negative goals, so, that Iranian woman’s market became common and cheap market for aliens coming to Iran and looking for cheap and illegal sex with women under the name of temporary marriage where a lot of aliens became come to Iran these days to buy sex under this kind of marriage being unable to get this kind of prostitution or marriage in their own countries. Most those aliens, coming to Iran for temporary marriage, come from Arabic countries supported to mullah’s regime, such as Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.
A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran’s prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence. Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today’s Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran’s prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.
Prices for Tehran luxury apartments exceeded those in Paris, as Iran’s kleptocracy distributed the oil windfall to tens of thousands of hangers-on of the revolution. US$35 billion went missing from state oil funds, opposition newspapers charged at the time. Corruption evidently has made whores of Tehran’s educated women.
According to a 2009 report from the US Council on Foreign Relations, “Iran serves as the major transport hub for opiates produced by [Afghanistan], and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts.” That is, 5% of Iran’s adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent [from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health] found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population. Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China’s throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran’s startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization. For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran’s youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country’s Education Ministry, Der Standard [in an article published in February 2009] adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.
The potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. In 2008 winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat. The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently.
The Iranian government’s official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran’s Literacy Movement Organization admitted in 2008 [according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008] that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million [or an adult population of about 52 million]. This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data. A better explanation of Iran’s population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini’s revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process. Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran’s collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.
Political Islam returned to the world stage with Ruhollah Khomeini’s 1979 revolution in Iran, which became the most aggressive patron of Muslim radicals outside its borders, including Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran’s birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran’s population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy. But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the “decadent” West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed. Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American “great Satan” have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time by 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran’s leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran’s neighbours.
Prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, 2009 the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. “More than 90% of Tehran’s prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30% of them are registered at a university or studying,” reports Der Standard. “The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them.”
The Austrian newspaper added, “Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this career voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution … they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law.”
Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world’s hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.
Iranians already behave like a defeated people. That is why they are so unstable, and so dangerous. The new Persian Empire masquerading as an Islamic Republic is a wounded beast. The rural misery and urban squalor that drive Iranian women into the brothels of Dubai and Brussels contrasts sharply with neighboring Azerbaijan, whose economy will double in size by 2010.
The proliferation of Iranian prostitutes in Western Europe as well as the Arab world helps explain the country’s population trends. The European Commission’s most comprehensive surveys of human trafficking found that Iranian women made up 10-15% of the prostitutes working in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. “Fatima” from Persia has become as familiar as “Natasha” from Belarus. Iranian whores long have been a scandal in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which periodically round up and expel them.
It is hard to obtain reliable data on prostitution inside Iran itself, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it has increased since Ahmadinejad became president in 2005. Anti-regime sociologists claim that at least 300,000 women are whoring in Tehran alone. The ADNKronos website reported on April 25, 2006:
Prostitution is on the rise in Iran … Sociologist Amanollah Gharaii Moghaddam told ADNKronos International [AKI] that he believes Iran’s deteriorating economy and the high unemployment rate among youths to be the main causes of this worrying phenomenon. In Iran, 28% of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unemployed … The age of prostitutes is increasingly younger, and girls as young as 12 are selling their bodies on Iran’s streets. Overall, the number of prostitutes is also on the rise and there are an estimated 300,000 of them in Tehran alone … Nevertheless, Gharaii Moghaddam says “the number isn’t so high when compared [with] the 4 million unemployed only in Tehran and the 5 million drug addicts today in Iran”.
These distasteful facts bear directly upon Iran’s national decline, and the impulses that push the Iranian leadership toward strategic flight forward. Iran’s plunging birth rate, I observed in essays past, will burden the country with an elderly population proportionately as large as Western Europe’s within a generation, just at the point at which this impoverished country will have ceased to export oil. By 2030, Iranian society will collapse.
The crisis of modernization first of all is a crisis of faith, and the attenuation of religious faith is the root cause of the birth-rate bust in the modern world. Traditional society is everywhere fragile, not only in the Islamic world; by definition it is bounded by values and expectations handed down from the past, to which individuals must submit. Once the bands of tradition are broken and each individual may choose for herself what sort of family to raise, religious faith becomes the decisive motivation for bringing children into the world.
The collapse of traditional society has brought about a collapse of birth rates across cultures. Cultures that fail to reproduce themselves by definition are failed cultures, for the simple reason that they will cease to exist before many generations have passed.
That is why the Islamists – Muslims who seek a new theocracy – display a sense of extreme urgency. They are not conservative Muslims, for they reject Muslim society as it exists as corrupt and decadent. They are revolutionaries who want to create a new kind of totalitarian theocracy that orders every detail of human life.
The clerical regime vacillates between repressing prostitution and sanctioning it through “temporary marriages”, an arrangement permitted under Shi’ite jurisprudence. In the latter case the Muslim clergy in effect become pimps, taking a fee for sanctioning several “temporary marriages” per women per day.
These numbers cannot be verified, to be sure, but the spill-over of Iranian prostitutes into Western Europe and the Gulf states suggests that the actual numbers must be very large indeed, so large, in fact, as to help explain the frightful rate of Iran’s demographic decline. Along with Albanian, Chechen and Bosnian women, Iranian prostitutes are living evidence of the dissolution of the traditional Muslim society that purports to shield women from degradation.
Nothing is more threadbare than the claim of Islamists to defend Muslim womanhood. Islamist radicals [like the penny-a-marriage mullahs of Iran] are the world’s most prolific pimps. The same networks that move female flesh across borders also provide illegal passage for jihadist, and the proceeds of human trafficking often support Islamist terrorists. From Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur to Sarajevo to Tirana, the criminals who trade in women overlap with jihadist networks. Prostitutes serve the terror network in a number of capacities, including suicide bombing. The going rate for a Muslim woman who can pass for a European to carry a suicide bomb currently is more than US$100,000. The Persian prostitute is the camp follower of the jihadist, joined to him in a pact of national suicide.
Decades of repression of women:
Throughout the world, women still suffer from discrimination and oppression, for no reason other than their gender. In essence, the plight and suffering of women is the same for all of us. Today, major issues such as peace, social and economic development, and the spread of democracy have become unavoidably entangled with the issues of women.
Despite its defiance, the male-dominated regime is retreating step by step. Yet at the same time, a reactionary, violent and suppressive force called fundamentalism is emerging. Misogynous in character, fundamentalism or religious fanaticism, best represented by Khomeini and his successors in Iran, is threatening all the achievements of the civilized world, particularly those of women. Under the banner of Islam, the fundamentalists are denying the equality of women and men. Islamic fundamentalism establishes its thesis on the differences between the sexes and the conclusion that the male is superior, and hence, the female is a slave at his service. A parliamentarian in Iran is on record as saying, “Women must accept the reality of men dominating them, and the world must recognize the fact that men are superior.” Ultimately, the fundamentalists do not believe women are human. One of the Iranian regime’s key ideologues says: “Women and men are equal in their humane essence, but they are two different forms of humans, with two different sets of attributes and two different psyches…”
From the fundamentalist mullahs’ perspective, sexual vice and virtue are the principal criteria for evaluation of women. The most ignoble and unforgivable of all sins is sexual wrongdoing. Piety, chastity and decency are measured by sex-related yardsticks, and seldom applied to political and social realms. Fundamentalism conceives of woman as sinister and satanic; she is the embodiment of sin and seduction. She must not step beyond her house, lest her presence in society breed sin. She must stay at home, serving her husband’s carnal desires; if she fails to comply, she is compelling her man to commit sin outside the home. The top officials of the fundamentalist regime in Iran emphasize that it is the “sacred” responsibility of a woman to serve her husband and take care of the household. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the mullahs’ “supreme leader,” has declared that “women’s first job is to be a wife and mother.” Khamenei dismissed the notion of women’s equal participation in social life in July 1997 as “negative, primitive and childish.”
When Mohammad Khatami became president in May 1997, there were optimistic predictions that changes were on the way. Despite all the propaganda, Mullah Khatami and his administration’s deeds point to the fact that mullahs’ “moderation” is nothing but a mirage. Khatami was just as committed to the medieval system of Velayat-Faqih that Khomeini founded. His administration was no different than previous governments, and rests on the same basis of fanatic fundamentalism. In that context, his views on women came as no surprise. Speaking to Salaam newspaper on May 11, 1997, just days before his election, Khatami declared: “One of the West’s biggest mistakes was the emancipation of women, which destroyed the family… Staying at home does not mean being pushed to the sidelines… We must not think that social activity means working outside the home. Housekeeping is among the most important of tasks.”
Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami’s predecessor, who headed the powerful Council to Determine State Exigencies, is on record as declaring unequivocally that women are inferior and must be treated differently under the law: “Justice does not mean that all laws must be the same for men and women… The difference in the stature, vitality, voice, development, muscular quality, and physical strength of men and women shows that men are stronger and more capable in all fields… Men’s brains are larger… Men incline toward reasoning and rationalism while women basically tend to be emotional. These differences affect the delegation of responsibilities, duties and rights.”
Mullah Mohammad Yazdi, the Head of the Judiciary, also emphasized the subservience of women: “If kneeling before God were not obligatory, wives should have knelt before their husbands.” He also said: “A woman is wholly the possession of her husband, and her public life is conditional upon her husband’s consent.”
These blatantly prejudiced views shed light on how discriminatory legislation against women has been proposed, adopted, and enforced in Iran since 1979. All the existing laws in Iran, which deal with the rights of women, arise from the stereotyped presumption that men are endowed with the right to dominate women. A man can divorce his wife freely and has the right to retain custody of their children. Article 105 of the Civil Code stipulates: “In the relationship between husband and wife, heading the family is characteristic of the husband.” The Islamic Council of Guardians decreed that “a woman does not have the right to leave her home without her husband’s permission, even to attend her father’s funeral.”
There are inequalities in punishments for similar crimes. While in most cases harsher punishments are issued for women, their credibility as witnesses and inheritance rights are half those of men. Article 115 of the Constitution specifically excludes women from the presidency. The law also excludes them from appointment to judgeships. Yazdi, the Head of the Judiciary, commented on December 15, 1986: “No matter at what stage of knowledge, virtue, perfection, and prudence a woman is, she does not have the right to rule… Even if a righteous accredited woman possesses all qualifications, she cannot assume a leadership position nor can she pass judgment, because she is a woman.” In the words of another Iranian official, women are “immature” and need “guardians.”
The fundamentalists look at the world and the hereafter through sex-tinted glasses. Throughout history, they have fabricated their own fantasies and moral lessons and attributed them to the Prophet Mohammad.
Contrary to all of Khatami’s attempts to put a positive spin on the mullahs’ misogynist treatment of women for international consumption, his cabinet did not include even one woman. The appointment of a woman, Massoumeh Ebtekar, as deputy for environmental protection, was supposed to reflect “moderation” and Khatami’s attention to women’s rights. But this woman vice president was no “moderate,” and was notorious as a staunch advocate of suppressing women’s rights. As a Spokesperson for the hostage-takers who captured the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, she once told an ABC Television correspondent that she was personally willing to take a gun and kill the hostages. [The New York Times, January 28, 1998]. In an interview with Die Tageszeitung on October 18, Ebtekar defended discrimination against women and medieval punishments, like stoning. In response to a question on stoning to death, Ebtekar said: “One should take the psychological and legal affairs of the society into consideration as well. If family rules and regulations are broken, it would result in many complex, grave consequences for all of the society.”
In response to a question about revoking laws such as the one stipulating that women need their husbands’ written permission to travel, she replied: “Man is responsible for the financial affairs of the family and for seeing that members of the family are not harmed. Thus, a woman needs her husband’s permission to make a trip. Otherwise, due to problems that would arise, a rift would come between them.”
Actually, it is this distorted, misogynous interpretation of Islam that provides the Iranian law and government with the basis for its sermonizing on the inferiority and subservience of women, encouraging more violence against them. As head of the Revolutionary Cultural Council, Khatami officially refused to commit the regime to the international convention banning discrimination against women – the United Nations Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Women [CEDAW].
Reports from inside Iran reveal that the mullahs’ regime has also intensified its attacks on the population, particularly against women and youths, and harassment in the streets by the so-called “Hezbollah” [Party of God] mercenaries is on the rise. Agence France Presse reported on November 30, 1997 that “Iranian security forces arrested a large number of women for improper veiling or attire that was not compatible with Islamic regulations.” The AFP correspondent witnessed police forcing many young women into patrol cars in northern Tehran. About ten young women, some of whom were wearing colorful head scarves and light make-up, were witnessed in a police vehicle in Vanak’s shopping mall.
Such incidents shed light on the circumstances of girls and women in Iran. Even a brief glance reveals the catastrophic consequences of their abuse and exploitation at the hands of the fundamentalists.
Girl children suffer the worst conditions in Iran today. According to the clerical regime’s rules and regulations, a girl child can virtually be bought and sold with the consent of her male guardian. Article 1041 of the Civil Code provides that ‘Marriage before puberty [nine full lunar years for girls] is prohibited. Marriage contracted before reaching puberty with the permission of the guardian is valid provided that the interests of the ward are duly observed.”
It has become common practice to sell or force very young girls to marry much older husbands, giving rise to all sorts of social ills. Adineh magazine wrote in summer 1991: “An 11-year-old girl was married off to a 27-year-old man. The father, who had seven daughters, received $300 for his consent. The morning after the marriage ceremonies, the girl was taken to hospital suffering from severe lacerations to her genitals.”
The state-controlled daily, Ressalat, reported on December 15, 1991, that due to extreme poverty and the absence of the most basic facilities, the deprived people of northern Khorassan sell their young girls for as little as $33. The buyers, mostly from Gonabad, take the girls away and put them to work on farms and in workshops. In the impoverished province of Sistan-Baluchistan [southeastern Iran], girls eight – ten years old are sold by their drug-addicted parents for US$4. Children are routinely abused in the labor force, and girls as young as four are used in the brick manufacturing, carpet weaving, textile and clothing industries.
According to the penal code, a nine-year-old girl can be punished as an adult by flogging, execution and even stoning. Given the arbitrary punishments and the virtual lack of due process of law, large numbers of children have been executed, in many cases without being officially charged or even having their identities established.
In a report on November 22, 1994, the United Nations Special Rapportuer on violence against women said “the public stoning and lashing of women serves to institutionalize violence against women. The Special Rapportuer received many allegations of such violent punishments being inflicted on women in the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
According to a special “religious decree” issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, virgin women prisoners must be raped before execution to prevent their going to heaven. A Guard conducts the rape the night before their murder. The next day, the religious judge at the prison issues a marriage certificate and sends it to the victim’s family, along with a box of sweets.
Tens of thousands of women have been subjected to cruel torture and execution. One method is particularly revealing: the Revolutionary Guards fire a single bullet into the womb of women political prisoners, leaving them to bleed to death in a slow process of excruciating pain. Even pregnant women are not spared, and hundreds have been executed with their unborn children. Many defenseless women prisoners are held in what are euphemistically referred to as “residential quarters” in prisons, where the Guards systematically rape them in order to totally destroy them.
In an eyewitness report, Amnesty International revealed how the small children of many young women in Evin Prison are viciously abused. Witness Helmut Szimkus, a German engineer, told Amnesty International they are kept “because they are an asset to the prison authorities for gaining confessions.” Szimkus, who was released after serving a lengthy sentence in an Iranian prison, said he witnessed several cases where Iranian children were tortured in the presence of their parents. “One time these guys [torturers] raped a nine-year-old girl. The parents had to watch. The father shook and rattled so badly that he could no longer sign the espionage confession they put before him.”
The social environment imbedded in the misogynous views, laws and policies of the fundamentalist regime naturally spawns corruption, making it increasingly difficult for women to survive. Women bear the brunt of the economic difficulties and social barriers and restrictions. Large numbers of deprived women have been forced into prostitution or become addicted to drugs. Meanwhile, the clerical regime, touting Islam, claims to accord “divine respect” to women.
“It is appalling. Never has prostitution been so rampant. But everything is done behind the veil,” Mahin, a 47-year old female Iranian jurist purged by the mullahs, told Helen Kami, the French journalist for Elle magazine who visited Iran in January 1997. Kami writes: “Prostitutes regularly roam Gandhi Street in north Tehran. At 5 p.m., we go to Istanbuli Street, also in north Tehran. The cab drivers, looking for wealthy or foreign patrons, are driving slowly. In exchange for only $1 [500 Tomans], they can provide you with girls, alcoholic beverages, heroin and hashish.”
Many more of the social consequences of the mullahs’ rule date back to the destructive, meaningless Iran-Iraq war, dragged on by Khomeini’s regime for eight years. In this case, too, women and children suffered most. Since it was very difficult for a widow to provide for herself and raise a family in Iran’s highly patriarchal society, multitudes turned to prostitution as the only means of survival. According to the Associated Press of July 21, 1989, the arrest of a war widow for prostitution touched off a national scandal, because the woman had prostituted herself as a last resort to feed her family.
Ressalat, a state-controlled newspaper, reported on July 3, 1991: “Three large brothels were discovered and shut down in Tehran in the past month alone. Thirty-eight women were arrested. Most of the arrested women said during interrogation that they had turned to prostitution as a result of poverty.”
Unemployment and skyrocketing prices make it impossible for millions of Iranians to get married and raise a family. At a seminar on the difficulties of getting married, Ayatollah Haeri Shirazi proposed in January 1997 that authorities promote an unofficial, temporary marriage called sigheh, that can last less than 24 hours and be repeated as many times as desired. This form of exploitation of women has become very widespread, and legitimizes sexual relations with very young girls. Quoting Mahin, the Iranian jurist, the Elle magazine reporter wrote in January 1997 about the life of a 9-year-old girl whose destitute parents arranged for her to be a sigheh. The man visits his temporary “wife” every weekend at her father’s house, for which privilege he pays her father about US$12 per visit.
The desperate women forced into prostitution, as a direct result of the regime’s policies, have to endure very harsh punishments, including public flogging and death by stoning. In one case, a religious judge convicted 17 members of an alleged prostitution ring. Among them were 14 brothers and sisters from a single family. Ten women and one man were stoned to death; two women and another man were hanged.
At least seven individuals have been stoned to death in public since Khatami’s election. On August 12, Agence France Presse reported that a 20-year-old woman who had been stoned “came to life” in the hospital morgue. The unidentified woman had been condemned to stoning by Boukan’s Islamic court. After the verdict of stoning to death was carried out, the coroner confirmed her death, but she began to breathe at the morgue.
The penalty for fornication, under articles 100 and 102 of the penal code, is only flogging for the unmarried male offender, but stoning to death for the unmarried female offender. Adulterers may be stoned to death, irrespective of their gender, but a man is buried up to his waist, and a woman up to her neck. Article 119 stipulates that the stones should not be so large as to kill the victim quickly, nor too small to cause severe injury.
Caught in a vicious cycle of social humiliation and coercion, economic dependence, family insecurity, fear for their children’s lives as well as their own, shame, lack of confidence, daily harassment for “improper veiling,” insults, and sexual abuse, Iranian women lead a bleak life. Feelings of despair and helplessness cast dark shadows over the lives of many, giving rise to a growing trend of suicide. A study in 1992 showed that twice as many women commit suicide as men.
Another study in 1993 stated, “lower class women complain that the major problem is feeding their family… The problem is somewhat different for middle-class women. Psychologists say the reason for suicides of most women in this class is deprivation of individual freedoms. Lack of jobs or financial support for widows is the next reason for suicide. Iranian widows or divorcees have no source of income. When society doesn’t provide employment opportunities, such women must remarry, turn to prostitution or commit suicide.”
A confidential report to the regime’s parliament on September 2, 1992, said the sudden surge in the rate of suicide among women across Iran was due in part to the pressures exerted on the wives of Revolutionary Guards and soldiers who had served in the Iran-Iraq war, who suffer from psychological disorders. The report pointed out that the most severely affected men were those who spent time at the front when they were teenagers, where they had killed or captured scores of people or witnessed sexual intercourse with animals. Many women suicides pointed to the psychological imbalance of their husbands as the sole reason for their decision to kill themselves.
The report added that girl children as young as ten, instead of spending their days playing with other children, were being forced to marry men three to four times their age. Meanwhile as “married women,” they are banned from attending school. Zan-e-Rouz, a woman’s magazine, wrote on Feb. 26, 1994, that a 14-year-old high school girl died after setting herself on fire to avoid marrying a 42-year-old man. Reuters reported on July 12, 1994, that “A 14-year-old Iranian girl, set to wed a man of 50 in an arranged marriage, burned herself to death.”
Given the totalitarian rule in Iran, most organized activities are known to the authorities. The exposure of sex slave networks in Iran has shown that many mullahs and officials are involved in the sexual exploitation and trade of women and girls. Women report that in order to have a judge approve a divorce they have to have sex with him. Women who are arrested for prostitution say they must have sex with the arresting officer. There are reports of police locating young women for sex for the wealthy and powerful mullahs. In cities, shelters have been set-up to provide assistance for runaways. Officials who run these shelters are often corrupt; they run prostitution rings using the girls from the shelter. The ruling fundamentalists have differing opinions on their official position on the sex trade: deny and hide it or recognize and accommodate it. In 2002, a BBC journalist was deported for taking photographs of prostitutes. Officials told her: “We are deporting you … because you have taken pictures of prostitutes. This is not a true reflection of life in our Islamic Republic. We don’t have prostitutes.” Yet, earlier the same year, officials of the Social Department of the Interior Ministry suggested legalizing prostitution as a way to manage it and control the spread of HIV. They proposed setting-up brothels, called “morality houses,” and using the traditional religious custom of temporary marriage, in which a couple can marry for a short period of time, even an hour, to facilitate prostitution. Islamic fundamentalists’ ideology and practices are adaptable when it comes to controlling and using women. Some may think a thriving sex trade in a theocracy with clerics acting as pimps is a contradiction in a country founded and ruled by Islamic fundamentalists. In fact, this is not a contradiction. First, exploitation and repression of women are closely associated. Both exist where women, individually or collectively, are denied freedom and rights. Second, the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran are not simply conservative Muslims. Islamic fundamentalism is a political movement with a political ideology that considers women inherently inferior in intellectual and moral capacity. Fundamentalists hate women’s minds and bodies. Selling women and girls for prostitution is just the dehumanizing complement to forcing women and girls to cover their bodies and hair with the veil. In a religious dictatorship like Iran, one cannot appeal to the rule of law for justice for women and girls. Women and girls have no guarantees of freedom and rights, and no expectation of respect or dignity from the Islamic fundamentalists.
Seven years back, a middle-aged Iranian-Canadian journalist named Zahra Kazemi was arrested in Tehran while taking photographs of regime hoodlums beating up young people who were demonstrating for freedom. A few days later she turned up dead in a local military hospital. The regime denied requests from the family and the Canadian government to examine the body, insisted that she had fallen in her prison cell and died of injuries to her head, denied that anyone had beaten her, and hastily buried her without any proper autopsy. The Kazemi family never believed the regime’s story, but efforts to get at the truth were predictably fruitless. Until now. Dr. Shahram Azam, a medical doctor who has just been granted asylum in Canada, has presented a firsthand account of the terrible death of Zara Kazemi. He says he examined Kazemi in a military hospital in Tehran on June 26, 2003. He says he found horrific injuries to her entire body that demonstrated torture and rape. By the time he examined her–an examination limited by the Islamic republic’s sexist restrictions that made it illegal for a male doctor to look at her genital area–Kazemi was unconscious and her body was covered with bruises. According to Dr. Azam, she had a skull fracture, two broken fingers, missing fingernails, a crushed big toe, a smashed nose, deep scratches on her neck, and evidence of flogging on her legs and back.
“I could see this was caused by torture,” Azam told Canadian journalists. He added that the nurse who examined Kazemi’s genitals told him of “brutal damage.” He believes she was tortured and raped. If he is correct, we can add Zara Kazemi to a long list of women who have been brutalized by the mullah’s torturers.
The brutal treatment of Iranian women by the mullahcracy is a daily occurrence, not an isolated case. As “Iran Focus” reported on March 2, 2005 “at least 54 Iranian girls and young women, between the ages of 16 and 25, are sold on the streets of Karachi in Pakistan on a daily basis,” according to “a senior women’s affairs analyst, speaking to a state-run news agency.”
The analyst, Mahboubeh Moghadam, added that there are at least 300,000 runaway girls in Iran right now, the result, in Moghadam’s words, of “the government policy which has resulted in poverty and the deprival of rights for the majority of people in society.”
Professor Donna M. Hughes, at the University of Rhode Island, one of the few Western scholars courageous enough to keep reporting on these horrors, says that the enslaved women are typically sold to people in the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, such as Qatar, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. But the slave trade is not limited to the Islamic world: Police have uncovered a number of prostitution and slavery rings operating from Tehran that have sold girls to France, Britain and Turkey as well. One network based in Turkey bought smuggled Iranian women and girls, gave them fake passports, and transported them to European and Persian Gulf countries. In one case, a 16-year-old girl was smuggled to Turkey, and then sold to a 58-year-old European national for $20,000.
Under the rule of the former Shah, a small number of women were hanged, mostly for murder. The Shah was deposed in 1979 and replaced by a fundamentalist Muslim regime led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. He won a huge democratic majority for the formation of an Islamic Republic on April the 1st, 1979. Under the new government, women were required to wear the veil, western music and alcohol were banned, and the punishments prescribed by Sharia law came into force. Male and female executions became frequent – often for refusing to convert/recognise Islam or for being a member of an anti-regime political group.
There are no accurate records of just how many men, women and girls were executed in the first years of the Revolution. There is a credible list of 14,028 names available and some sources claim figures of several tens of thousands, although these are not substantiated with names. According to a report published by the Organisation of Women Against Execution in Iran, at least 2,000 women were executed between June 1981 and 1990. They have been able to prepare a list containing 1,428 names. 187 of these women were under the age of 18, with 9 girls under the age of 13 and 14 between the ages of 45 to 70. The youngest girl executed was just 10 years old. Thirty two of these women were reported to have been pregnant at the time of their execution. Many of those executed were high school and college students. Hanging was the most common method of execution for women, although some were shot. Men and women were hanged in large groups in Tehran prisons from cranes and forklift trucks. Each crane jib or forklift had a wooden or steel beam to which the noose was attached and when the preparations were complete, the prisoners were simply hoisted into the air.
Murder of Bahais:
The case of the 10 women hanged in Shiraz in 1983 is well documented, however. The “crime” of these women was to believe in the Bahá’í religion instead of Islam and to believe in the equality of men and women. These were considered to be very dangerous concepts by the Revolutionary regime who had them arrested and tortured in an effort to persuade them to convert into Islam. Several of them were subjected to the “bastinado” – beating on the soles of their feet. They were all given the opportunity to avoid execution by recanting their faith and converting to Islam but none of them chose to.
On the night of June the 18th,1983, they were driven in a bus to a polo field on the outskirts of Shiraz where a gallows had been set up. The bus driver who took them there reported that they seemed to be in good spirits, singing on the way and prepared to meet their fate.
The youngest prisoner was Mona Mahmudnizhad, who was just 17 years old. Her father had been hanged some months earlier for his beliefs. At the execution ground, she asked to be hanged last so that she could pray for all the other women. Reportedly, she kissed the noose and recited a prayer before she was suspended.
The other 9 members of the group were :
23 year old Roya Ishraqi, a promising veterinary student, was executed with her 50 year old mother, Izzad Janami Ishraqi.
20 year old Akhtar Sabit, a graduate nurse, who had taught children’s religious classes.
28 year old Mahshid Nirumand was a physics graduate from the University of Shiraz. She is said to have remained resolute in prison and to have shared her food with the others and encouraged them to remain firm.
Shirin Dalvand was 25 years old and held a degree in sociology from the University of Shiraz. Shirin was an expert in the Baha’i faith. Under interrogation, she was asked whether she would ever give up her religion – she told her questioner that she would hold to her faith.” Until my death, I hope that the divine mercy will enable me to remain firm to the last breath of my life”.
Tahirih Siyavushi was a 32 year old nurse, who had been a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Shiraz. Her husband, Jamshid, had been hanged two days earlier. As a nurse, Tahirih helped to look after the other prisoners.
20 year old Simin Sabiri, who had been a member of the Committee of Studies Baha’ ies of Shiraz.
Zarrin Muqimi was 28 years old and also very knowledgeable about her faith defending it vigorously under interrogation.
The oldest of the 10 was 54 year old Mrs. Nosrat Yalda’I who had belonged to the Spiritual Local Assembly of Shiraz and whose house was regarded as the “nerve centre” of the Community life Baha’ ie in Shiraz. She had been viciously whipped during her time in prison and her wounds were still visible after her hanging. Both her husband and her son, Bahram had also been executed.
The town’s people of Shiraz groups brought flowers to the mortuary to honour the bravery of these women, despite the dangers of such a protest. The Bahá’í religion is still considered dangerous by the regime and is suppressed.
Dina Parnabi was an Iranian high school student, accused of smuggling forbidden literature and criticising the regime in her talks with her classmates. She was hanged on the 10th of July 1984 in a Teheran prison. The hanging was done in private and after the execution was over, her body was stripped, washed and delivered for dissection at medical school. In Iran, female bodies delivered for medical studies often show the rope or cable burns around their necks, indicating that they were all executed by hanging.
Disrespecting the women in Islam:
In recent time, Iranian Mullahs and people in the administration have started calling women as ‘Aurat’, which actually is a Urdu word. In Urdu, women are called ‘aurat’, which came from the Arabic word ‘awrah. The Arabic word refers to the genitals of a woman’s body, in a simple and straightforward word, which is called the ‘vagina’. It means, the entire body of a Muslim woman is a huge vagina and nothing else [Warraq, 2005. p. 316]. How many Urdu speaking Asian Muslims know this fact that for referring their mothers, sisters and daughters, they use a word which actually degrades their women folks? Nikah’ [Muslim marriage], is an Arabic word whose literal meaning is penetration [Kaleeby, 2002; Warraq, 2005]. It can be pronounced as ‘Nokh’, which again means the ‘awrah’, the giant vagina, i.e, the entire body of a Muslim woman. When the word ‘Nikah’ is used to mean marriage, the actual meaning is not marriage but literally ‘sexual penetration’. Ignorant Muslims often use these words, without knowing their actual meaning and degrade their woman folks to the level of sex-slaves and cheap highway prostitutes.
The compensation [dower] for sexual service of the wife in Islam is known as ‘mahr’, which all Muslim men must agree to pay before marriage. It can be immediate or deferred to a future date. No Islamic marriage is valid without the payment of ‘mahr’. Sometimes, Muslim women take keen pride in the sums paid for them as ‘mahr’ without knowing the actual purpose of it. In reality, however, ‘mahr’ is nothing but the payment to purchase a female body for sexual enjoyment. This degradation is sanctioned by Shariah Law [the divine law of Allah]. So when a Muslim marries off his sister or daughter to another Muslim family, he actually auctions his sister for a quick financial profit. If the ‘mahr’ is not sufficient, then as per ‘Sha’ria’ Law, the marriage can be cancelled. Often the wife does not get to use the ‘mahr’ for herself. This money is used to furnish the house of the newly married couple or her father grabs the entire amount [Warraq, 2005, p. 311].
The Sha’ria does not recognize ‘forced sex’ on women after marriage. There is nothing called marital rape. Once ‘mahr’ is paid, the wife is a legal sex-slave of the man [often next to three other equally helpless wives]. In prostitution, a customer does not need to bother about the sexual gratification of the prostitute. Similarly, the sexual desires and preferences of the women are not recognized in Islam.”