Outrage against Iran has grown sharply over the past few weeks, with criticism of the country’s repressive nature fueled in part by authorities putting the country’s woman legislators and head of the judiciary on trial.
But the country’s reputation for brutal repression remains a distant memory for many Iranians, and only rarely has violent agitation erupted outside of the confines of Iran’s borders.
But on Sunday, a vice governor of the northwestern province of Tabriz, Atta Mohammed Salehi, was the victim of a brutal attack after a rally by several thousand women organized by opposition factions.
The protesters had protested against a “rape law” that was passed earlier this year. The controversial law, which was passed last month, allows a rapist to escape punishment if the victim dies, takes a year off of school and divorces her husband. The lawmakers behind the law said that the measure would create a “better climate for women in Iran.”
They are wrong.
It creates a climate of terror against women as revenge for their crime. And it creates a climate of terror against gay Iranians as an excuse for executing them.
Both the opposition and the Iranian authorities have claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack.
An Iranian state television presenter claimed that “several people of Satan” were behind the attack.
He later said that the act was an attempt to “set back the revolution,” but that the culprits would be punished.
When Atta Mohammed Salehi walked into the rally carrying a silver flag and a t-shirt with a picture of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, he was hit from behind.
Within two minutes, one of the men left Salehi, who was lying on the ground, and began shouting “Shroud the nation in blood!”
“The flower of Iran will not be obscured in blood,” the protester shouted as he ran off with others.
Later that evening, supporters of Mohammadreza Radan, a member of parliament from Tabriz, posted photos of himself resting on the hands of the vice governor.
“I hereby inform you that I was yesterday touched and slapped by some women from dark complexions. I will tackle these women and eradicate this backward thinking,” he said.
The vice governor was not hurt, and in a post published on his official page on Tuesday, he said: “I have no proof that had it been the other way around, that my dear colleague would have suffered and received a fist because she was of dark complexions. I will step up investigations, and I am convinced that it will be found out who actually carried out the crime.”
At the rally, a shirtless man appeared to taunt the victims by shouting, “I promise you, blood will be on your hands.”
A few days earlier, a senior Shiite cleric warned that Iranian opposition parties would be executed if they aimed to bring down the government. Another cleric, Mojtaba Khosravi, claimed that half of Iran’s estimated 80,000 prisoners are Republicans and warned them not to stir up civil unrest in a speech to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.
It’s possible that Khosravi was referring to the rebels and journalists who Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) frequently arrests and lures to trial for espionage or subversion. But the message may have been clear: Their status is at risk if they take to the streets to protest the establishment.