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Iran has seen a resurgence of the #Metoo phenomenon in recent weeks. On social networks, the testimonies of women have multiplied, pushing the police to arrest a suspected rapist.
For fourteen years, former Iranian journalist Sara Omatali has kept silent about the sexual assault she suffered in Tehran in the summer of 2006 during an interview with a famous painter in the Iranian capital. A week ago, the young woman, who now resides in the United States, decides to speak on Twitter.
نوشتن این چند سطر از سختترین کارهایی است که کردهام. قرار است ماجرایی را بخوانید که ممکن است آدمی را که نزد خیلیهایتان فردی خردمند و فرهیخته و داناست و از روشنفکرهای محبوب, به کل زیر سؤال ببرد. این روایت را سالها حمل کردهام و دیگر دلیلی برای حمل مصلحتاندیشانهشان نمیبینم /
– Sara Omatali (@SOmatali) August 22, 2020
She is one of the many Iranian women who, in recent days, have denounced on social networks the sexual harassment and rape, of which they have been victims, sometimes using the hashtag #Metoo, born out of the Harvey Weinstein case in the United States.
Sara Omatali was prompted to share her story after reading a first testimony that appeared on Instagram in mid-August. In this story, which, according to The world, initiated a movement in Iran, a young woman says she was raped three years ago by a “regular at the intellectual and artistic youth evenings of the capital”. He pours drugs into her glass and abuses her. She wakes up naked the next day without remembering anything. The story is widely shared and about twenty young women say they too have suffered violence from the same man.
The case grew to such an extent that Iranian police seized on it and arrested the suspected assailant on August 25. Previously, a rare occurrence, the authorities encouraged victims to come and file a complaint.
Tips are shared on social networks
On Instagram and Twitter, other Iranian women begin to name their attacker. Some of them, mostly journalists, dare to testify without a pseudonym.
کل ماجرا شاید ۲-۳ ساعت طول کشید. از موقعی که بهم زیادی نزدیک شد, دستمو گرفت, به بهانه نشون دادن عکساش بردتم تو اتاق خوابش, نشوندتم لبه تختش و زد به کانال من یه مرد سنبالای مهربون با اخلاقم ولی تنهام. و تو این مدت تا دوستم اومد دنبالم من مث سگ لرزیدم.
– Shahrzad (@shaahhrzaad) August 22, 2020
Some of these victims were minors at the time of the incident. The defendants come from various backgrounds: a university professor, famous artists, actors, several writers …
In the comments, tips are exchanged and lawyers step in to provide legal support. “In the event of rape, you should tell the police that you were a virgin before the incident,” advised a user to one of the victims, writes Le Monde. In Iran, premarital sex is punishable by 99 lashes, and victims risk the situation backfiring. Likewise, the use of alcohol is prohibited by Islamic law in force in the country.
“In the absence of education on sexual issues in Iran, this movement has finally made it possible to launch a public discussion on the subject. It is a precious opportunity”, reacted Sara Omatali, interviewed by a Persian language radio. “Personally, I realized very late that it was not normal for a woman journalist to work in these conditions, that harassment, inappropriate gestures and words during interviews were not possible”, continues -she.
The law dissuades victims from filing a complaint
For lawyer Mohammad Oliaeifard, Iranian law is not on the side of the victims. Proving rape in an Iranian court remains very complex, he explains. According to the Islamic penal code adopted by Iran, rape must be confirmed by several eyewitnesses and the act is not considered as such, only from a certain degree of penetration of the aggressor’s penis. In other cases of abuse, the perpetrator of the sexual violence risks 99 lashes.
Iranian law therefore dissuades victims from filing a complaint, just as the gravity of the sentence incurred by the accused can be seen as a barrier. In Iran, rapists are indeed liable to the death penalty by hanging. Le Monde, which interviewed one of the victims of the man arrested at the end of August in Tehran, thus reports the confused feelings of the young Iranian on the verge of crossing the door of a police station, but remorseful at the idea to send a man to the gallows.