Why Does the Iranian Regime Rape its Own Citizens?

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Like all countries which use sharia law as state law, the Islamic Republic of Iran institutionalizes a litany of women’s rights abuses.

These include :

  • The husband is the head of the family, and his wife is legally bound to obey him. Article 1,105 of the civil code states: “In relations between husband and wife, the position of the head of the family exclusively belongs to the husband."
  • A married woman cannot leave the country without her husband's permission.
  • A woman's testimony as a witness is worth half that of a man, in compliance with the Sharia basis of the legal system.
  • Women are forced to wear the hijab, a headscarf, in all public places. More broadly, Islamic modesty requirements are enforced by a morality police.
  • Polygamy and temporary marriage are permitted for men (up to four wives are allowed, subject to certain restrictions), but not for women.

Moreover, women are frequently subject to honor killings. In cases where the father kills his daughter, he is not liable for the death penalty, but only for imprisonment. This is further compounded as when someone is murdered, the family of the victim can forgive the murderer and choose to forgo punishment.

As harsh as the everyday discrimination is, however, the most serious violations are meted out against dissenters.

Use of rape as a method of torture against political opponents has been deployed widely against both men and women, as well as sexual taunts, threats and other forms of assault.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran told PBS that in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 election, "rape was routinely practiced as a matter of policy to intimidate young ordinary people from ever coming out to protest again."

In prisons, virgin girls who are sentenced to death (the death penalty covers a wide variety of crimes, including the nebulous charge of Moharabeh, "enmity against God") are typically forced into "temporary marriages" with the prison guards and raped on the night before their execution.

According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center this is "because the guards believed young girls executed while virgins would go to heaven" and they wanted to prevent that.

A former Iranian Basij militia man spoke to The Jerusalem Post on the condition of anonymity and recorded his role in perpetrating these rapes when he was a prison guard.

He said, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. And they would always fight back, so we would have to put sleeping pills in their food. By morning, the girls would have an empty expression; it seemed like they were ready or wanted to die. I remember hearing them cry and scream after [the rape] was over. I will never forget how this one girl clawed at her own face and neck with her fingernails afterwards. She had deep scratches all over her.”

Rape and other forms of sexual assault are a means of humiliation and degrading the regime’s opponents – and are also a potent means of intimidating others into cowed obedience.

Thus, the Islamic Republic inflicts on the bodies of its citizens the purest demonstration of raw power, reminding them who rules Iran.

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David Harris

David Harris is the editor in chief of Clarion Project.

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