Wave of Acid Attacks in Iran

Terrorized women live in fear.

[](/sites/default/files/uploads/2014/10/bbbunnamed.png)“I was never more scared than I am now. I am scared of going to class, doing normal chores, driving a car, and even walking in the street. I am really afraid of motorcycles. Do you know what will happen to my life if one of these people throw acid in my face?” Azita, a university student in Isfahan, anxiously told me. Her neighborhood, Jolfa, has become a target of a new wave of acid attacks against young girls. Women are not even safe in their cars, as the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) has reported that in October 15, witnesses saw an incident of an acid assault by a motorcyclist on a 27-year-old woman who was in the car with her car window left open.

I was born in this neighborhood – to be more specific, in Hakim Nezami – and lived in this area of Isfahan for two years of my youth. Although the issue of acid attacks against women has been prevalent, and on the rise, particularly in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, I have never heard of acid being a threat or an issue targeting women in the Islamic Republic until these recent developments.

Reportedly, a series of acid attacks mainly by motorcyclists has been carried out against Iranian women because they were badly veiled and their hijabs did not meet the Islamic dress code of the Islamic Republic. The acid assaults in countries such as India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan have been more aimed at female victims, who, according to the aggressors, cause their family to lose honor due to premarital sex or “indecent behavior” with the opposite sex.

According to the imposed dress code of the Islamic Republic of Iran, women are supposed to wear a complete hijab, preferably a black chador, which covers their heads, necks, and bodies. The cloth should be loose in order to not expose the frame of the body. As a result, anything beside this criteria is marked as a bad hijab. The punishment for not wearing the hijab has ranged from arrests to lashings, fines, torture, and imprisonment. In the beginning years of the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and 1980 when the hijab was imposed, secular female movements protested but many women were stabbed as a result. The fear and use of brutal force centralized the dress code imposed by the Iranian regime.

The overwhelming majority of Iranian women opposed this forceful theocratic law by pushing the boundaries set by the state. Over the years, they have slightly changed the dress code by wearing colorful, small, and thin veils, which hardly cover the hair and exposes some hair in the front and back. In addition, young girls have been slightly exposing some skin (ankles, arms, etc.), along with wearing tight coats, shirts, and clothing that reaches mid-thigh.

Since millions of girls across the country have been resisting the theocratic and Islamic social order, the government has found it impossible to arrest all these women and put them in jail. Notwithstanding this fact, the Iranian regime has had moral and Islamic vigilantes in the streets, who randomly arrest and drag women to the police station and the “Amre Be Maroof va Nahi az Monkar” office: the Center for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

The major question to address is why and who these abusers are who are attacking innocent women with acid for not wearing the hijab properly? From my perspective, and having lived in the Islamic Republic, I do not think that ordinary Iranian people, even the religious ones who are not connected to the government, would commit such acts. Culturally, socially, and historically speaking, acid attacks have never been a method of torturing innocent women for not complying with dress code in the Iranian society. Iranian citizens are well educated and many of them favor Western secular ways of living to the status quo and theocratic, authoritarian Islamic rule.

One speculation and presumption behind these egregious human rights abuses can be traced to the Iranian regime itself. Under the presidency of the “moderate” cleric, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian parliament has recently given more power to moral police, vigilante Islamic groups, and moral patrols in the streets, by passing laws that grant freer rein to these groups to monitor and spy on the society. Some of these powerful moral and militant groups, which have gained more power from the Iranian parliament, are Basij and Ansar e Hezbollah (the Supporters of the Party of God).

Some motorcyclists have been noted to ride large bikes and have conservative appearances. Some motorcyclists are also causing women to believe their faces are being burned by throwing water and cleansers into their faces. This is more a method of imposing fear in the society. Outrageously, militant and fundamentalist groups such as the Basij, Ansar e Hezbollah, intelligence, and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, view women’s improper dress as the underlying reason behind these acts against them. As a result, for them these kind of egregious abuses are totally justified.

Since the Islamic Republic is incapable of controlling and imprisoning millions of women who are challenging the Islamic power structures of the regime, the acid attacks might be a new method employed by governmental vigilante groups to impose fear in the society, particularly in women, and coerce women to comply with the Islamic dress code of the Islamic Republic.

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