‘Immodest’ hijab wearers under threat
A series of acid attacks on ‘loose hijab’ women have taken place in Iran.
The attacks, according to this report, coincide with a law recently passed by the Iranian parliament that gives further powers to morality patrols.
Ansar-e-Hezbollah – or the “Supporters of the Party of God” – a militant fundamentalist group, announced it would be resuming its street activities, which include harassing women who don’t wearing what the zealots deem to be proper Islamic headscarves.
For the past two weeks there have been rumours that a group of motorcyclists are throwing acid on women whose obligatory hijabs,do not meet the gang’s standards. They target women’s faces, and the attacks are said to have been concentrated in Isfahan.
On October 16 the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) confirmed one report: a woman in a car had been attacked, and acid was thrown in her face. There was widespread speculation that it was done as a means of punishment because the woman was wearing an “improper” hijab arranged to show too much of the hair and face beneath.
Colonel Hossein Hosseinzadeh, deputy commander of the security forces in Isfahan, confirmed that two such attacks had taken place, but he said the motive was not clear and the police were pursuing the matter.
Fazlollah Kafil, Isfahan’s governor, said that the victim was a married woman.
It is possible that the motive was personal. We have to investigate such cases carefully. If we are too hasty, we will make people feel unsafe. Police will let us know what they find out as soon as possible.
But residents of Isfahan feel unsafe already. According to some reports, up to six women have been taken to Isfahan’s Feyz Hospital in connection with acid attacks. The hospital specialises in treating eye conditions. The average age of the victims is about 30.
There were other reports of attacks. A doctor at Isfahan’s Burn Centre said:
I had two patients who were burned by acid. I am not at the hospital every day and every hour, so it is possible there have been other cases that I don’t know about.
Another Isfahan resident said:
Two weeks ago a group of motorcyclists threw a bucket at the faces of some women to frighten them. There was no acid in the bucket, just water mixed with some cleansers, which gave the sensation of burning. They just wanted to frighten people. But in recent weeks there have been real acid-throwing attacks.
Ansar-e-Hezbollah said in the past that sexual violence against women can be attributed to instances of female “impropriety”.
Anothert resident said:
There have been calls for women to observe rules around wearing a proper hijab, in order to prevent certain people from being provoked.
Akbar Pakzad, a well-known commander of the Revolutionary Guards in Isfahan said:
I heard the news a couple of hours ago and it really shocked me. Such actions are forbidden, whether by religion, by sharia or by the law. They are not human. Anybody who takes such actions under any pretext has committed a crime and must be punished under the maximum penalty. He considers throwing acid a deadly sin, which must be punishable by death.
Hojatoleslam Kamil Kaveh, head of Ansar-e-Hezbollah in Isfahan, denies having heard about the attacks.
Unfortunately or fortunately I have not heard anything about it. A Muslim would not even think about doing such a thing even if he has only a drop of religion in him.
The photo used to illustrate this report is of Ameneh Bahrami, who was blinded in an acid attack by Majid Movahedi after she repeatedly spurned his offer of marriage. Movahedi was sentenced in February 2009 to be blinded in both eyes, but in July 2011, he was given an 11th hour reprieve when Bahrami pardoned him, saying she would accept €2-million in ‘blood money’ instead.
Bahrami said she she pardoned her attacker because:
God talks about ‘qesas’ [eye for an eye justice] in the Koran but he also recommends pardon since pardon is greater than ‘qesas’.