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July 20, 2009

Anonymous Basiji describes prison rape in Iran

A man alleged to be an active member of Iran's brutal Basiji militia spoke to a reporter about his role in suppressing the recent street protests and about earlier abuses of prisoners. The Basij's most explosive claim is that he raped Iranian virgins in order to facilitate their executions:

In the Islamic Republic it is illegal to execute a young woman, regardless of her crime, if she is a virgin, he explained. Therefore a "wedding" ceremony is conducted the night before the execution: The young girl is forced to have sexual intercourse with a prison guard - essentially raped by her "husband."

"I regret that, even though the marriages were legal," he said.

Why the regret, if the marriages were "legal?"

"Because," he went on, "I could tell that the girls were more afraid of their 'wedding' night than of the execution that awaited them in the morning. [Jerusalem Post]

I tend to be skeptical of the claims of anonymous sources, on general principle, particularly when they're making such politically charged allegations. Does anyone know how plausible the militiaman's claims are? Is it really legal in Iran to force prisoners into marriage, and marital rape, in order to make them eligible for execution?

Something about the story seems off to me, like it's all too perfectly horrifying--it's not just prison rape, but raping virgins under the color of law in order to kill them. It seems like a story calculated to push all of our emotional buttons and lay the blame directly at the feet of the regime.

Make no mistake, pro-democracy activists are being raped in prison in Iran. Independent reports attest to these atrocities.

There's no question that Iran has a terrible human rights record and a penchant for executions. So did Iraq under Saddam Hussein. But the true stories of mass graves and poison gas weren't enough for the pro-war lobby group that fabricated a story about Iraqi troops ripping Kuwaiti infants out of their incubators.


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While Shia Islam (but not Sunni) allows temporary or fixed term marriages, Sharia does not allow the marriage of a woman without her consent, though that is sometimes overlooked with her guardian's (father or other male relative) permission. Seems unlikely that this would be legal in Iran.

Whatever the final answer, props for asking this question.

Marjane Satrapi relates the same details in Persepolis, for what it's worth. She says this was going on in the early post-revolution years.

"Is it really legal in Iran to force prisoners into marriage, and marital rape, in order to make them eligible for execution?"

Well that's rather hard to answer based on sourcing, because the only people likely to attest to it who aren't going to be anonymous are going to be dead. So as best as I think we can judge, a) the rest of the claims in the article seem very credible and b) I don't necessarily any reason why it wouldn't be sanctioned by the IRG.

If Marjane Satrapi thinks the scenario is plausible, that counts for a lot in my book.

Brien, I'm not sure I buy your argument. If the practice is really legal, it might be common knowledge--like other legal human rights violations in Iran. For example, we know that men are regularly executed in Iran on suspicion of being gay, for example. It's outrageous, but not secret.

For example, we know that men are regularly executed in Iran on suspicion of being gay, for example. It's outrageous, but not secret.

I'm aware of executions in Iran linked to charges of homosexual behavior, although it seems sometimes that case that men targeted in Iran because of gay identity are accused of sexual assault against other men to make their executions more palatable. (Doug Ireland has done good reporting on this.) I'm not aware of reports that "men are regularly executed in Iran on suspicion of being gay." Can you be more specific about your sources?

It's a crucial plot point in Persepolis - it's part of her parent's explanation of why they need to send the 14-year old Marjane away to live in Europe for her own protection. Her mother tells her that it happened to a young woman of their acquaintance, and that the proof was that the guards sent the family a token dowry along with the notice of their daughter's execution. So it's not just a "there are rumors of this sort of thing happening somewhere," but a specific statement that it happened to someone they know.

Similar accounts were made in the semi-fictionalized 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' also wrt early post-revolution years. Sometimes women were allegedly arrested because they were attractive, so they could be raped by the guards.

Sadly, this story could easily be true but the combination of anonymous sources and the JPost make me highly skeptical.

In the Persian Empire ,it was the norm to keep young boys in the Harems
for satisfying the sexual appetites of their masters. Within the Iranian society "bache-bazi"
or "sexual play with young boys" has been an under the carpet social norm for many centuries and the ambiguous nature
of the Qur'anic prescription has not been able to bring halt to this social illness. Will Durant refers to this issue
in his book "History of Civilization". He writes:

"Iranian society was almost exclusively male, and since there was no permitted association
of men with women outside the home, the men found companionship in homosexual relationships, Platonic or physical. Lesbianism flourished."

"There were three sexes. Much of the love poetry was addressed by men to boys, and Thomas Herbert, and Englishman at Abbas' [i.e Shah Abbas
of the Saffavid Dynasty. This Dynasty appeared before the Qajar dynasty, during which The Bab and Bahá'u'lláh proclaimed Their revelations. KH]
court, saw 'Ganymede boys in vests of gold, rich bespangled turbans, and choice sandals, their curled hair dangling about their shoulders,
with rolling eyes and vermilion cheeks.'

Chardin noted a decrease in population in his time , he said:

"The women's purpose there is to have children, and continue fruitful but for a little while; and as soon as they get on the wrong side
of thirty years of age, they are looked upon as old and superannuated, The men likewise begin to visit boys too young, and to such an excess,
that they enjoy several. There are also a great many women who make themselves abortive, and take remedies against growing pregnant, because
[when] they have been three or four months gone with the child, their husbands take to young boys

For more than a millennium, Janet Afary writes, male homoerotic relations in Iran were bound by rules
of courtship such as the bestowal of presents, the teaching of literary texts, bodybuilding and military training,
mentorship, and the development of social contacts that would help the junior partners career

"Afary continues, In Iran men exchanged vows,with deep homosexual overtones. These relationships were mailnly about anal sex,
but sometimes about cultivating affection between the partners, placing certain responsibilities on the man with regard to the future
of [their usually younger lover]. Sisterhood sigehs involving lesbian practices were also common in Iran.The couple traded gifts,
traveled together to shrines, and spent the night together."

Examples of the codes governing same-sex relations in Iran can be found in the Mirror for Princes genre of literature (andarz nameh),
[which] refers to homosexual relations. Often written by fathers for sons, or viziers for sultans, these books contained separate chapter
headings on the treatment of male companions and of wives. One such was the Qabus Nameh (1082-1083), in which a father advises a son:

"As between women and youths, do not confine your inclinations to either sex; thus you may find enjoyment from both kinds without
either of the two becoming inimical to you. During the summer let your desires incline toward youths, and during the winter towards women."

Afary dissects how classical Persian literature (12th to 15th centuries) overflowed with same-sex themes
(such as passionate homoerotic allusions, symbolism, and even explicit references to beautiful young boys).

Afary also notes that homosexuality and homoerotic expressions were embraced in numerous other public spaces in Iran beyond the royal court,
from monasteries and seminaries to taverns, military camps, gymnasiums, bathhouses and coffeehouses.
male houses of prostitution (amrad khaneh) were recognized, tax-paying establishments

Notwithstanding the anonymous source, the practice of raping virgin girls in prisons of Islamic Republic is a routine practice and the main point of thhe story is true. Clerics openly defended it as a religious duty.

They were routinely done during the 1980's and 90's. Ayatollah Khomeini who founded the system made a religious decree and made it a requirement. It may have slowed down but it hasn't stopped.

If this is indeed true, and I concede that it likely is, it is horrific in the extreme.

L.B.'s essential statement remains correct. It is easy to believe in the atrocities of the "other." It is precisely because of this that such accusations must be investigated with great rigor before action is taken lest it become too easy to believe in the inhumanity of our fellow humans. The net result of this being even more suffering.

Is it time to bomb Iran yet? Jerusalem post is a bit hawkish. But I'll wait until foxnews quoting the story to make sure the media operation for Iran attack has begun.

This story is sad. Why should anyone be executed for political reasons to begin with?

Secondly, why should anyone be forced to engage in intercourse unwillingly?

I hope that people become wise over time and realize that most of the nonsense that is being sold to them as "religous laws" or religion is baseless and may have never existed in the past in any religion. Such inhumane laws can only come from evil knigs and dictators in the past to intimidate the opposition.

Also, by observations and research, there is little known about sex life of the Persians. What do we call Persians? Iran has been a melting pot for sevral thousand years. Today's Iran is a mixture of the Persians (Prusians), Arabs, Indians, Jews and Moguls. What is referred to as "Bacheh-Bazi (sex with minors/Child Pornography)" is has been a sick tradition of few villages in Greece, Arabia, Iran and China and a few other countries in the region. Obviously, these sexual deviations do not belong only one certain race or ethnic group and could probably be traced in all civilizations at any time in history, so let's not generalize. Also, there are very few people with such deviations in every society, so let's not label countries with such deviations.

I appreciate unbiased, factual and accurate comments by everyone to integrate the world. Inaccurate comments tend to disintegrate the world for the advantage of handfull of people in the short term. Even in the long term, these handful special interest people too will lose by suck biased comments.

They were routinely done during the 1980's and 90's.

So, that would cover the period when the putative "reformer" Mr Mousavi was prime minister then?

If Marjane Satrapi thinks the scenario is plausible, that counts for a lot in my book.

On the other hand, the scenario is straight out of I, Claudius, describing the murder of Caligula's young heirs.

Lindsey, I think it appropriate to take such accounts as questionable. Despite Persepolis claim they knew someone who it happened to, that is placing a lot of weight on a personal account that is hearsay. In a climate of nationalist tensions these claims and counter claims are hard to prove or disprove but become widespread 'truths' if the journalist don't make skeptical emphasis on standards of proof.

Joey Maloney, actually it was the daughter of Sejanus, according to Tacitus, executed on the orders of Tiberius. But that only demonstrates that dictatorships don't get any better - it doesn't lead me to doubt this story, unfortunately.

Thanks for the correction, chris. I was too lazy to thumb through the book to refresh my recollection.

That aside, I agree this modern account should be accepted only with caution, if for no other reason than its appearance in the Likud-leaning Jerusalem Post. This is not the first anonymously-sourced accusation they've printed about the Iranian regime that pushes the envelope. At the start of the coup the Post printed that the regime was importing thousands of Hamas activists to swell the ranks of the basiji. Like this story it's not completely unbelievable but no one else that I'm aware of ever picked it up, which makes me dubious.

One can find the story credible without agreeing with the possible policy goals of those who may be promulgating it for their own reasons. It's not like there aren't other much better attested accounts of horrific things happening to women in Iran (e.g., stoning for "adultery"). But anyone who thinks this is a good reason to go "bomb, bomb Iran" ought to go read the rest of Persepolis, particularly her portrayal of how even dissidents who had had family members imprisoned or executed by the regime rallied to support their country when Iraq attacked.

Whether or not we are individually inclined to believe this story, and I think we can all agree it is at least plausible, we should also be able to agree there is reason to be skeptical, given the timing, the lack of attribution and the media source.

And what if it is true? Check out this google news timeline for stories containing "Women", "Iraq" & "Raped", bearing in mind that the Iraq war started in March '03.

Remember articles like this?
"Another witness told us about practices of the [Iraqi] security services towards women: “Women were suspended by their hair as their families watched; men were forced to watch as their wives were raped . . . women were suspended by their legs while they were menstruating until their periods were over, a procedure designed to cause humiliation.”

I can never quite understand the level of hatred that causes people to make up fiction of this ilk. In Shia Iran, there is no prohibition against executing a virgin. In Iran, there are no Jerusalem Post reporters running around asking militiamen about their nonexistent sex lives. In Iran the jails are not operated by volunteer basij, but rather by professional security personal. In Iran, by law women prisoners are guarded by female wardens, not by male wardens to avoid the abuses of the previous U.S. backed dictatorship. In Iran, when a woman is arrested, a female police officer must be present. In Iran, homosexuality is considered a mental disorder and treated as such; the state even offers the option of gender assignment surgery as an alternative to therapy. In Iran, not a single person has been executed for homosexuality, please do not confuse pedophiles with homosexuals; when Iranians read about foreign LGBT NGOs defending serial murders and child rapists as being unfairly executed by the state it just reinforces the image of homosexuals as mentally unbalanced. Note that the only states in the world that actually execute sick people like homosexuals are U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Morocco; note also that the poor bastards in these countries are abandoned to their fate by international LGBT organizations, guess they're too busy defending confessed pedophiles and murderers from the Iranian noose.

Seriously, if FOX news were to publish a story about Iranians sacrificing their children to Martian deities, I think the poor critical thinking skills of Americans would see the vast majority buying it hook, line and sinker. P.S. before anyone has an awkward moment, the phrase, "Bacheh-Bazi" does not mean "pedophilia" in Farsi, the phrase translates roughly into "amateurish, unprofessional" it is almost equivalent to it's English literal translation "Kids Play". So next time you see an Iranian scolding another and you over hear,"Bacheh-Bazi", most likely one is admonishing the other for being unprofessional not inviting for a round of child raping.

In Iran, homosexuality is considered a mental disorder and treated as such; the state even offers the option of gender assignment surgery as an alternative to therapy.

Azr@el, I'm a homosexual who's not interested in gender assignment surgery or therapy--how would I fair in Iran?

Parse, If you were attempting to pursue a homosexual lifestyle in Iran you would find a culture that is hostile to the concept due to a confluence of religion and culture. Where it is true that Iran has been historically tolerant towards homosexuality and has even celebrated it in poetry and arts, it would be a mistake to assume that this is representative of the current culture. Roughly a hundred years ago the vast majority of Iranians were uneducated peasants tied to their ? hereditary bureaucrat's? land much like a Russian serf. The elites were able to indulge their taste, the vast majority we left to toil; the pretty ones, irrespective of their wishes, would have fortune deliver them as rent boys or girls in the human chattel markets, but for the rest life was very insular and clannish. The clerics didn't even bother to preach to such people, a lower class of lay preacher, the Akhounds, were developed specifically to handle the marriages and deaths of such people.

The period from the constitutional revolution to the current theocratic republic saw the emancipation of these people and the flood of the major cities with millions of migrants. This created a new national culture based on a merger of previously insular village subcultures. Generally when this happens, those elements that everyone , irrespective of their village of origin, can agree to become the universal basis set for the new hybrid culture. In this respect capital punishment, a strong visceral dislike of homosexulaity; an institution deemed by the majority a demasculating humiliation enforced by overlords, and various other interpretations of Shiaism are not fads but rather the backbones of the current culture.

The clergy understands, that it was thru their negligence in regulating the lay preachers that some of the more hostile views have been allowed to promulgate and thus it is actually the clerics who proscribe therapy or gender assignment surgery as an alternative to mob justice. In Iran, three choices present themselves; one, allow village justice to take hold and deal with those exhibiting homosexual tendencies; we can all agree this would be barbaric and reduce us to the level of the Arabs. Two, we can offer those individuals who wish to pursue such a course gender assignment surgery and to those individuals who are willing to stunt their socially unacceptable sexuality in return for social and familial acceptance the means to achieve this comfortably thru therapy. And thirdly, for those who feel this is so important, they're is always immigration, much like many people who come from deeply conservative backgrounds can move to a big city and be openly homosexual without causing a rift with their families and friends so too can Iranians immigrate to a big city and and follow a similar course, save that the big city will be in another country far from our borders; all neighboring states also deem homosexuality to be an undesirable endstate, with the exception of Turkey, where homosexual prostitution seems to be tolerated, the Gulf Arabs have a tradition of male on male rape as a form of dominance establishment, the victim is sometimes termed homosexual but I think this fails the concept of consensual and is more akin to pedophilia; Pakistan and Afghanistan both practice pedophilia but again this should never be confused with homosexuality.

I've written this not in the form of debate or argumentation, my wish is not to convince to accept this viewpoint or even tolerate this viewpoint but merely to share the thinking and circumstances that shape this viewpoint. Iranian opinions on homosexuality are not a top down fiat, rather they are an interplay between a society's clergy which honestly wishes a just and merciful dispensation to all of it's citizens and the current culture; which views such a thing, rightly or wrongly, thru the lens of victimization and wishes to see it eradicated as a means of national self affirmation. Changing the government from what it is now to something more populist, a glimpse of which can be seen in Ahmadnejad's adminsitration which contrary to twitter has overwhelming support in the countryside; 60% of the country, would not be in the best interests of LGBT. It is strange that such people clamour for an end to the one institution which offers them any respite from the excesses of the masses.

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