Gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr

Gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr have shocked and outraged the Iranian society. According to the reports and investigations done so far, the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr were carried out by a gang of four men affiliated with paramilitary institutes, i.e. the Bassij.

Iranshahr with a population of 150,000 is located in Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, in southeastern Iran. Most of the residents of Iranshahr are Sunnis.

The regime’s Prosecutor General has cast doubts on the news, announcing that they are going to prosecute the whistle blower, namely the city’s Friday prayer leader who publicized the news of the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr. Other judiciary officials have also tried to question the validity of the news and minimize its magnitudes.

The families of the victims told Iranshahr’s Friday prayer leader that they do not trust the State Security Force to pursue the case because “the assailants are tied to the (paramilitary) Bassij.” Other people also speak of the two main suspects having ties with the paramilitary institutes.

Assailants tied to paramilitary institutes, power centers

On Friday, June 15, 2018, Mowlavi Tayyeb Mollazehi, the Friday prayer leader of Sunnis in Iranshahr, revealed the news on the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr.

Subsequently, Mohammad Khani, Iranshahr’s Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor, declared that out of the four suspected assailants in this case, the main assailant had been arrested.

According to the Friday Prayer leader of Iranshahr, one of the victims of these rapes was going back home from work in the holy month of Ramadan, when she was obstructed by and forced into a car and kidnapped at gunpoint. The young woman had been in the hands of her captors until evening.

Referring to the arrested assailant, Mowlavi Tayyeb said, “He has confessed that they have raped 41 Muslim sisters.”

Addressing some of the local officials present in the mass prayer, Tayyeb pointed out, “These thugs are from among our own children. If I mention their names, then some people will have to keep their heads down.”

Then in interviews with the state-run ISNA and ILNA news agencies, he added that the arrested member of the gang was “a wealthy magnate.”

Tayyebeh Siavoshi, a member of the mullahs’ parliament, confirmed the remarks by Mowlavi Tayyeb on the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr. Having made independent inquiries from “unofficial sources”, she found out that the arrested person in this case “enjoyed power and financial base.” (The official IRNA news agency – June 18, 2018)

Who were the victims and how did it happen?

Reza Abdi, general director of the Coroner’s Office in Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, said, “A 24-year-old person (woman) referred to the Coroner’s Office (on Monday, June 18, 2018), who had been hurt, harassed, raped and kidnapped. She also bore obvious scars of rape and kidnapping… In the examinations, she was found to bear scars of beating, too.” (The state-run IRNA news agency – June 18, 2018)

An informed source at the Coroner’s Office said three women had referred to them from morning to afternoon of June 18, for examination and documentation. One of them was a young woman, 24 or 25 years old, who was filing complaint three or four days after the incident.

The victims said they had been kidnapped “at gunpoint” by individuals “who were wearing the State Security Force or military uniforms.”

The victims of the serial rapes were between 18 and 30 years old. Every one of them had been driven in a black Peugeot to a safe house in Iranshahr where they were raped by four kidnappers. To prevent their victims from identifying the house, the kidnappers blindfolded them on the way to the safe house. But one of the victims managed to learn the route and identify the house where she had been outraged.

Nothing has been officially released as the total number of the victims. The present estimate is based on the confessions made by the arrested assailant and which was told to the family of one of the victims.

Fatemeh Fazeli, general director of Women and Family Affairs at the Governorate of Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, was interviewed by the local news channel, Neday-e Zahedan (Voice of Zahedan). “Based on the news and other obtained data, quite a few young women and girls of Iranshahr have been victims of this ominous incident but only a few of them have dared to speak about this agonizing experience,” Fazeli pointed out.

Mowlavi Abdul-Hamid Mollazehi, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, urged all the victims of these serial rapes on Monday, June 18, “to register their complaints without fearing anyone.”

It is believed that many raped women and girls are refraining from filing complaints and concealing the truth, fearing social “disgrace.”

Minimizing the crime while accusing the victims

Local and national judiciary officials, however, have been rejecting the details of gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr and speaking of only “three rapes.” Some of them undermine the validity of the news and the victims’ honesty, something that bespeaks of a coordinated complicity among local officials and the assailants to conceal the truth.

Mullah Ebrahim Hamidi, Chief of the Justice Department in Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, reacted to the news of the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr, by saying, “We cannot confirm the claim made by Mr. Mowlavi in the Friday prayer of Iranshahr; so far, only three persons have filed complaints about the kidnapping and rape of young women in Iranshahr. One of those accused in this connection has been already arrested.” (The state-run Tabnak website – June 17, 2018)

Despite confirming that the first complainant had actually been raped, Reza Abdi, General Director of the Coroner’s Office of Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, said, “While she has claimed that she had been harassed and raped by four men, we are not able to verify the number of assailants.” (The official IRNA news agency – June 18, 2018)

Mullah Ali Movahedi Rad, Zahedan’s Prosecutor, also said he considered the news as being “false… in the way it was expressed” but confirmed that three people had filed complaints in this regard.

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, he said three people “have so far filed suits against kidnapping and rape,” adding, “One of them was raped in January, another in April and the other in June.” He said of the three, “only one had accepted to be medically examined at the Coroner’s Office.”

Movahedi Rad also stressed that in this case, “there are only three private complainants. As a result, one could not speak of rapes of 41 women and girls.” He denied the validity of the news all together and said, “It is possible that some of these people were previously in some relationship but subsequently ran into problems and finally to complaints.”

Mohammad Hadi Mar’ashi, deputy for security and disciplinary affairs to the Governor of Sistan-and-Baluchistan Province, declared, “After the first complainant, two other persons also filed complaints with the Judiciary. One could say that the three women knew one another from before.” Mar’ashi accused Mowlavi Tayyeb of stirring tensions in the city by speaking out about the issue without having sufficient information. (The official IRNA news agency – June 18, 2018)

Nabibakhsh Davoudi, the governor of Iranshahr, also gave an interview to the local state-run radio and television of Sistan-and-Baluchistan. In unusual remarks indicating his lack of interest to publicize the story in the media, Davoudi said, “The issue is too complicated and we have not made the final conclusion. Proving that these girls were actually raped requires special examinations and follow-ups… No specific number (of victims) has been determined, yet.”

Mohammad Na’im Amini-Fard, member of Majlis (the mullahs’ parliament) from Iranshahr, also stated, “We have not been given any exact numbers as of yet… Until final conclusion of legal investigations, one cannot announce any figures on the number of victims in this incident.”

He tried to avert the charges against “well-known and influential families” of Iranshahr and “the paramilitary institutes” by blaming the incident on “the growing population of shanty-town dwellers around Iranshahr,” the city’s location “on the route of organized drug-trafficking gangs,” etc.


Threatening to arrest the whistle blower instead of the assailants

Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the Iranian regime’s General Prosecutor, declared on Monday, June 18, 2018, that the person who publicized the news of the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr will be prosecuted.

According to the state-run Tasnim news agency, Montazeri said, “Anyone who has made up and announced such news must certainly be able to prove his claim. According to the declarations by local prosecutor and judiciary officials in Sistan-and-Baluchistan, and my own personal studies, we must deny this story the way it has been announced.”

“The Judiciary will deal decisively with the individual who has taken advantage of a public forum by misinforming the public by fake news without verifying its validity, and thereby jeopardizing the honor of some families,” Montazeri continued.

The regime’s General Prosecutor emphasized, “This incident is certainly not true in the scale it has been raised.”

He threatened to take legal action against the Friday prayer leader of Iranshahr if he does not manage to prove his claims. “His action is tantamount to distortion of public opinion, a charge that could be prosecuted under the law.”

Montazeri said, “The preparations for legal action against the source of this news” who he said had “distorted the public opinion” and prepared the grounds for “some to take advantage (of the news)” has already started.

Coordinated concealment, organized complicity

The trend of events and the statements of regime officials in the case of gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr, make it crystal clear what happens to the victims of rape in Iran under the mullahs’ rule and in the absence of any bills or legislations which criminalize rape and violence against women.

On the one hand, the assailants who have ties with the regime’s power centers and government agencies manage to evade justice. On the other hand, the women who are victims of violence are considered “partners in crime” and punished instead of the assailants.

Were it not for the public outrage, these women could be convicted and sentenced to retribution and stoning, something that strongly contributes to the victims’ refusal to complain or register incidents of rape and violence against women.

The most vivid example is the case of Reyhaneh Jabbari, the 19-year-old woman who defended herself against rape. She spent seven years behind the bars and was viciously tortured to make false confessions to help clean the trace of the assailant, a senior Intelligence Ministry official. Reyhaneh refused to make false confessions and was finally hanged because of defending herself against rape.

In this case, too, we see that the mullahs’ General Prosecutor shamelessly accuses the victims of having previous relationships with their assailants, “buy subsequently ran into problems and finally to complaints.”

The deputy for security and disciplinary affairs to the Governor also quips that the three complainants “knew one another from before.”

In a bid to help exonerate the assailants, the General Director of the Coroner’s Office describes the victim’s testimony as a “claim” despite proof of rape and says, “We cannot verify the number of assailants.” Then the mullahs’ top prosecutor calls for the prosecution of “the whistleblower.”

A well-coordinated choir to conceal the truth and help the criminals evade justice, those who “enjoy power and financial base,” have ties with “the Bassij” and “paramilitary institutes” as attested by the victims’ families, and kidnapped the women in “SSF uniforms.”


Public abhorrence and outrage

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, a number of people of Iranshahr gathered outside the gates of the Governor’s Office to protest the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr. They demanded the arrest and punishment of the assailants without receiving any answer for their demands. The protesters were instead attacked and at least six persons were arrested.

On Tuesday, June 19, 2018, a group of Iranshahr’s women gathered again outside the Governor’s Office. The women who were infuriated by the gang rapes of 41 young women and girls in Iranshahr, held small placards which read, “Victims of rape are not instruments to be sacrificed for special interests,” “women are not commodities to lose their value because of rape,” and “No to all forms of violence.”

Also, on Monday evening, June 18, 2018, a group of young women and girls walked through the crowded Vali-e Asr district in Tehran holding up placards which read, “Daughters of Iranshahr, let’s break the silence,” “Speaking of rape is not a disgrace,” and “rape victims must not remain silent.”