“We young Baluchis condemn this horrible assault on our sisters and demand the arrest and the execution of the guilty parties”. (IranWire)

By Mahrokh Gholamhosseinpou

June 29, 2018

A second suspect has been arrested in connection with the gang rapes of 41 women in Iranshahr after a public outcry that authorities were not doing enough to bring justice to the victims.

The rapes were first reported by Molavi Mohammad Taeb Molazehi, the Sunni Friday Prayers Leader of Iranshahr in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan. But instead of the perpetrators facing justice, Iran’s Prosecutor General threatened legal action against the prayers leader — a move linked to the fact the perpetrators belonged to some of the city’s most influential families.

Following these revelations, shocked residents took to the streets to demand the judiciary pursue justice for the 41 victims.

The women were said to have remained silent out of fear of how their families and the community might respond. Mohammad Baluchzehi, the governor of Nikshahr in Sistan and Baluchistan, said their lives could be at risk since the practice of “honor killings” is not uncommon in the province. And a number of civil activists have expressed serious concerns about the psychological welfare of these women, insisting they need urgent support and psychological care.

Although some of the families of the victims have rejected or been hostile toward their daughters, IranWire spoke to one mother who fully supports her daughter, who was brutally raped by the gang. Her mother says not only has she not done anything wrong, but she has suffered enormously — and has attempted suicide several times. I asked her about her daughter’s ordeal and what the authorities are doing about it.

 “The car belongs to the father of Mohsen Ghazi, one of the accused in the case”

When did you learn about what had happened?

An acquaintance of ours called us. By chance, he had seen some young men force my daughter into a car and drive off. We were so worried and immediately started searching for her. For hours, we heard no news of her. Finally, she arrived home in a taxi. She was in a very bad shape mentally and physically. She was unable to tell us what had happened for hours. She had been beaten badly.

We have heard that some families did not want their daughters to come forward. Did you ask your daughter not to talk to anyone about it?

No. We immediately went to the police station and lodged a complaint. Our daughter had done nothing wrong; [we did not feel we should] hide it. She is a very calm and sensible girl. My daughter did not see the faces of the rapists because they wore masks. But she was able to identify them by their voices.

Later, when they found the car of the rapists, they discovered many SIM cards, fake license plates, rope, various masks, memory cards, three mobile phones and things like that.

Have the men confessed to their crimes?

Yes. [Some of them] have confessed to robbery, armed kidnapping and 41 cases of rape. After his arrest, the first suspect named his accomplices, who are locally well known. Some of them have been arrested or questioned: Mohsen Ghazi, owner of a pharmacy, Mahmoud Y, who is a member of the Basij and his brother is [in the] Revolutionary Guards, Omid B, whose father is a retired army officer and Asghar, who works with a Basiji base in the area.

These individuals have close connections with the police and the police investigations bureau. Mohsen Ghazi’s uncle is influential and is a close relative of the Friday Prayers Leader of Kahnuj [a city in the neighboring province of Kerman]. He also has close connections to the Revolutionary Guards in Kahnuj. It seems that because of their money and their connections with government officials, they enjoy a very strong backing.

They [police] have arrested a group of young people who rightly protested against what happened. It is not even known where they are detained. One of these kids was beaten so badly that his father told me he could not recognize his son for a few minutes. Why? What crime have they committed?

One of accused has confessed to raping 41 women. So why have so few people spoken out and complained about these crimes?

For good or for bad, this is part of the culture and the custom. But welost no time in complaining. The next day the investigations bureau referred us to court, but it took them a week to give us the medical examiner’s letter. Normally such cases are sent immediately to the medical examiner to prevent the evidence from disappearing. The medical examiner confirmed the rape but they delayed sending the letter to the court.

I really do believe these delays are intentional. Not only that, they took a member of our family for interrogation, and asked: “Was it you who told the Friday Prayers leader? Why did he say these things? Why did you say 41 women?” Their only worry is why the news has come out. Nobody cares about the crime or about the families.

Do you think the case will be handled in a just manner?

The rapists have strong backers. When they confronted my daughters with one of the perpetrators, he openly sneered in the presence of the judge, and told her: “Don’t over-exert yourself for nothing. I will be released after 24 hours.”

The media have reported that the Friday prayers leader is also under pressure because he broke the news. Is this true?

Our Friday prayers leader is a red line for local people. They [the judicial authorities] cannot do it [pressure him] because people will not stay silent.. If they hurt Molavi Molazehi, this place will turn into an Armageddon.

Is it possible that they might pressure you to forgive?

So far this has not happened. They only told us that if the information leaks out, it will cost us. Even if we forgive, the people of the city will not. We will die before we give in.

How is your daughter doing?

She is extremely agitated. Today I led her to her bed to get some sleep with difficulty. Altogether she is not in a good mental condition. The real problem is that officials want to create a bogus story. For example, they pretend that our daughters were at fault and that they consented to what happened. I wish they were a tiny bit more brave and a little less wicked. How can one consent to rape? If a person wants to do it [have sex] she wouldn’t scream. She would arrange a time and a place and then do it.

Do they really think people are so stupid? How can one consent to being beaten so badly that she was not able to talk for hours? They want to cover it up or to pretend it was not rape. If it was not rape then why did they kidnap people? Why did they wear masks? Why did they have fake license plates? Why did they beat their victims and then leave them in a remote part of the city? How can a sound mind say such things [that the rapes were consensual]?

Did the gang choose their victims randomly?

No. They had a list of women and stalked them. They acted according to a plan. They chose girls who behaved calmly and whose families had no connections and no influence. After they raped them, they took their victims’ property, like gold and money, and then left them somewhere in the city. They also made videos of their victims so that they would not dare to go to the police. They threatened them that if they did they would publish the videos to shame their families. This is one of the reasons why many of the victims decided not to complain. They were afraid the videos would be published.

Have the others who have been arrested confessed to their crimes?

One has confessed but the others have yet to confess. One of those who has not confessed — the one who is related to the Friday prayers leader of Kahnuj — was released on bail, on a collateral of five million tomans [just under $1,200]. They called [the family] from the detention center and told them to come and pick up the accused. They intended to release him under the radar. Then when they saw that people were protesting, they sent him a summons but he failed to appear. He was arrested a second time in Zahedan.

Now I’ve heard that they want to create a bogus medical file for him so that he can be released. Well, they are well-connected. Once, wearing Revolutionary Guards’ uniforms, [some of the accused] abducted a woman at gunpoint in front of a guard and told the guard that they were arresting her because she had committed an offense. They let her go after two days.

I also heard that one of the victims was a married woman. These [stories] are all so painful. Now the gentlemen are annoyed because the news has leaked and because people have begun to talk about it.

Iran has detained a journalist who served as an adviser to a prominent opposition leader under house arrest.

The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted the Tehran prosecutor as saying that Hengameh Shaidi was “on the run” for months before she was arrested on Kish Island. The prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, did not specify the charges, but accused her of insulting the judiciary with “criminal tweets.”

The state-run IRNA news agency also reported the arrest, saying she had used a mask to hide from police.

Shaidi, who was previously detained in March 2017, had worked as an adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011.

The arrest comes two weeks after Nasrin Sotoudeh, a human rights lawyer who had criticized the judiciary, was arrested from her home.

Iran Wire

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.