This week the brave women of Iran fought back against the repressive tactics of the regime that attempts to intimidate and harass them into submission. After a number of acid attacks in the city of Isfahan were reported, international media outlets caught to this ongoing problem in Iran. These horrific acid attacks that had previously been linked to personal grudges, are now pointing to a deeper problem in Iranian society.
The attacks against women that took place in Isfahan, one of Iran’s most touristic cities, has been linked to government authorities and ‘vigilantes’ attempting to enforce the regime’s moral rules and dress codes for women. This has been vigorously denied by government officials.
Reports suggest that the assailants, riding on motorbikes, threw acid on at least eight women, in a similar sequence of events, while they were driving with their windows pulled down. Golnoush from Tehran Bureau tweeted earlier that a “Surgeon in Isfahan, #Iran confirmed 8 cases of acid attacks in the city. 4 of the attacks in a 2-week period starting in early October.”
Around 2,000 Isfahani men and women gathered in protest outside Isfahan’s justice department, calling on them to take action against theses increasingly violent attacks on women. Many of the protestors have been chanting numerous slogans blaming government agents for attacking women. Chants included “We know who’s throwing acid at our women; It’s the government agents.”
Similar solidarity protests took place in Tehran outside the Iranian Parliament calling on MPs to halt a proposed bill which would grant further freedoms to the morality police and the plain clothed militia to enforce the Iranian dress code. Saham News reported that in Tehran protestors where drawing parallels between the acid attacks and Isis ideology “Isfahan doesn’t want Daesh (Isis), stop acid attacks”. These protesters are also angry about the “lenient punishment for men who perpetrate violence against women and conservatives who obsess over female veiling.”
There seems to be no real effort by the Iranian government to put a stop to similar violent repressions against the women of Iran. Whether the assailants are indeed connected to government officials or not, it is undeniable that such actions are related back to Iran’s institutionalised acceptance of violence in the name of religion – from public hangings to Iran’s ‘eye for an eye” retributive punishments, Iranians have become accustomed and prone to violent attacks protecting the Iranian government’s arbitrary moral codes.
It is also ironic that in a country where moves are being made by hardliners to in effect legalise, or reduce the stigma of, attacks against women for the way they are dressed, including the throwing of acid, they ban innocent activities such as water fights. Thus, under the Iranian parliament’s logic, throwing of acid protects Islamic values, but water fights are bad for public morality…
In Tehran’s solidarity protests which included prominent women’s rights groups and activists, such as Narges Mohammadi, and Noushin Ahmadi Khorasani, Nasrin Sotoudeh was a recognisable face. In the striking image she is pictured in the protests standing with two victims of Iran’s acid throwing criminals. Mrs. Sotoudeh’s presence in the protest is a symbolic one of defiance and continued activism. A renowned lawyer that has fought fearlessly for the rights of journalists, activists and women has now been banned from her vital work on Saturday. The decision was given by the Iranian Bar Association (IBA) after multiple petitions from the Islamic Revolution Court for the Bar to suspend her license to practice, based on her previous human rights activity that had led to her 6 year sentence in 2010 under charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “actions against national security” for defending journalists, and other activists in Iran. She was only released after Rouhani’s election in early 2013 as, what seemed to be, a post-election publicity stunt.
This ban is the first of its kind from the IBA in Iran by disqualifying a lawyer, let alone one for their human rights work. After the decision she started a sit-in protest outside the IBA whose independence and integrity has increasingly been undermined by the regime, especially due to high pressures from the Intelligence Ministry. You can read Ms. Sotoudeh’s letter highlighting the lamentable state of the Bar Association and judicial partiality here.
Ms. Sotoudeh told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that she has raised four demands to the IBA. “My first demand will be to remove the Bill of Comprehensive Law of Attorneyship from the agenda at the Iranian Parliament. My second demand is a review of the forced unemployment of dissidents. My third demand is an immediate review of the state of legal representation in Iran, and my fourth demand is the removal of the ban on my legal practice”. ARTICLE 19 fully supports Ms. Sotoudeh in her protest against this unruly and arbitrary ban and her call for protection for human rights defenders in Iran.
Ms. Sotoudeh’s interview with IranWire provides further details into her reactions and planned actions in regards to this ban.
These protests, these defiant faces and voices show that the people of Iran will not be frightened into silence. You may throw acid and blind a woman, but you cannot silence her vision for emancipation from a patriarchal and repressive regime; especially one that refuses to adequately prosecute the criminals destroying lives, yet it imprisons those who stand with oppressed.
Image source for first picture: http://www.rferl.org/content/iran-acid-attacks-protests-tehran-isfahan/26650881.html