June 02, 2018

In recent days, Iranian media have reported extensively on the rape of young boys by a vice-principal at a school in west Tehran. The video clip of the suspect’s confession posted on social media has shocked the public. Over 40 parents have filed formal complaints against the vice-principal.

The authorities have also charged the suspect with giving alcohol, cigarettes and pornographic material to underage students. In the video of his interrogation, the suspect confesses to showing pictures with explicit sexual content to young boys.      

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has urged the Judiciary to prosecute the case as a matter of urgency and “carry out the verdict to the full extent of the Divine limit.” The “Divine limit” refers to Islamic punishment, which in the case of sodomy is death, irrespective of the defendant’s marital status or religious beliefs. In Shia Islam, the convicted criminal is beheaded, hanged or stoned to death.

It would appear that Mr. Khamenei is calling for the execution of the vice-principal if he is found guilty. Data has shown that the death penalty has not worked as a deterrent in Iran. Despite harsh punishments, violent crimes have been on the rise in recent years, particularly in major urban centers.

The Education Committee of the Majlis (Iranian Parliament) plans to discuss this latest abuse incident in its next meeting. According to a committee member, Parvaneh Salahshouri, there are also rumors about the possible impeachment of the Minister of Education, Mohammad Bathaei.

“Some of my colleagues believe that Mr. Bathaei should appear in front of the committee and answer some important questions. There are also rumors about his possible impeachment. There have been concerns about his competence before,” Mrs. Salahshouri said. “These alleged assaults happened a month ago. It takes a while for the young victims to open up about their traumatic experiences to therapists. Meanwhile, the media have been reporting on the incidents.”

Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist Majlis deputy representing Tehran has called on the Judiciary chief Sadeq Larijani to “give serious attention to these types of crimes. In other countries, ministers would resign in response to such events. Therefore, we’d ask that you order a special investigation in this regard.”

The Speaker of the Majlis, Ali Larijani, concurs. He said: “This is a tragic event that should never happen in our schools again. We must deal with this issue decisively.”  

Meanwhile, many Internet users have been highlighting UNESCO’s 2030 Agenda which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Iran has refused to sign up to the plan. The head of the Judiciary, the Friday Prayer leaders and the majority of conservative politicians have described it as a “plot by the foreigners to interfere in Iran’s domestic affairs.”   

@estaram_Stariam wrote in a tweet: “Damn all those people who prevented the implementation of (UNESCO) 2030 Agenda because they thought it violated our sovereignty. Every single one of them is complicit in the rapes of our children.”

Many Iranian men and women have shared their experiences as victims of sexual abuse on social media using Metoo#. They believe that breaking their silence could raise greater social awareness and even reduce the number of sexual offenses. Some have described the ordeal of being sexually abused as children by a family member or a relative. Others have shared their traumatic experience of having been molested in public places.

Qalieneilax tweeted: “I’m thinking about all the stories that will never be shared on #metoo.”

“This is not a recent phenomenon, as they claim. No,” another tweet said. “These sexual abuses existed in the 1980s and 90s. But there wasn’t as much social awareness then as it is now. I knew at least two teachers who abused children. We couldn’t tell anyone. We were scared. No one protected us.”

@honest_fh tweeted: “After reading the comments on the #metoo thread, I also found the courage to share my experience. Up until now, anyone I’d spoken to had laughed at me. I was sexually abused as a child by a coach at the gym. I recall my mother had spoken to me about things like that.”

“He used crystal meth. It happened in 2012. I was studying for my algebra exam. I went to bed at three o’clock in the morning. My exam was at eight. As I was falling asleep, he suddenly was on top of me kissing my breasts. All I could do was to scream. He didn’t say anything. He just swore and left. He was my father. My real dad. Not my stepfather,” a tweet said.

Most victims of sexual abuse suffer in silence for years.

“I was molested by a close relative repeatedly when I was eight years old. My mother made me feel that it was my fault when I told her about it. I used to dream about rape every other night until I was 18. I hated myself as a person and a woman. I thought every man who got close to me meant to harm me. I’m 21 now. I can speak about having been a victim of rape,” another person tweeted.

Another tweet said: “I was surprised to read on #metoo stories about men who have been victims of sexual abuse when they were young boys. I always thought only girls were victims of rape. Now I realize that it doesn’t make any difference.”

@moradedelema tweeted: “I was 15 years old at the time. I went to my cousin’s house. We planned to go out. My uncle (mother’s brother) opened the door. There was no one else in the house. I was a bit scared, but I didn’t get up and leave. He offered me an alcoholic drink. I drank a little. He started to touch me. I was too embarrassed to say anything. It’s stupid to be shy.”

Zahra Tabbakhi, a reporter for the Tehran-based hardline daily Kayhan, wrote: “By posting the video clips of the parents, families, and relatives of the victims you revealed the identities of these children. They’ll have to live with the stigma all their lives. How could they go to school and function normally in society? Amadnews Telegram channel is an irresponsible site. Does it even know the meaning of social responsibility?” 

@z4h14 tweeted: “I never forget what that man did to me in that narrow alley. I was only nine years old at the time. It was very early in the morning. I was a young girl holding a piece of bread.” 

Another person wrote: “Defend yourself when someone assaults you in the street. Scream for help. An assailant should not feel safe. He shouldn’t dare to do it again. You won’t be less of a woman if you hit him in the stomach with your elbow. Don’t worry how society may judge you for raising hell.”

“I lived in an orphanage. Life was tough. No father, mother or any family. We were abused and humiliated. We thought that was life,” another victim of sexual abuse tweeted.

@setisetiaaaa wrote: “If you only knew how disturbing it is when you touch a girl as you pass her by in the street, especially a young child. She will carry that deep fear all through her life.”

“it takes a lot of courage to use #metoo,” another person twitted.

“I am not going to write about my experience as a rape victim. I don’t want some idiot re-tweet my own story back to me and tell me to get over it. But I’m with you. I’ve been a victim. But it makes no difference now,” another person tweeted.

@Existentialer wrote: “the rape of those high school students is truly a tragic event. People have offered many solutions. But in my opinion, removing those clerics from power is the only effective way to deal with this plague.”

“Follow #metoo. Read every single post. An Islamic regime governs a society that has so many victims of sexual assault! Many do not address the problem out of fear and embarrassment,” another person tweeted.

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