WATCH: Hundreds take to streets in Iran to protest acid attacks against women

Protesters gather in front of Isfahan Department of Justice building to express support for victims who were attacked for not wearing a sufficient head covering.

October 22, 2014 13:02
3 minute read.

Hundreds take to streets in Iran to protest acid attacks against women

Hundreds take to streets in Iran to protest acid attacks against women


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Iranians took to the streets in Isfahan on Wednesday, protesting a number of acid attacks against young women carried out in the city in recent weeks.

Iranian authorities have arrested a number of suspects in the attacks, but have not confirmed claims that the women were attacked because they were not dressed modestly enough, wearing form-fitting clothes and an insufficient head covering.

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In videos posted on the 'My Stealthy Freedom' Facebook page on Wednesday, hundreds of people can be seen in front of the Department of Justice building in Isfahan, calling for a stop to the attacks and expressing support for the victims.

The protest marked a rare show of civil disobedience in Iran, known for its authoritarian regime.

The demonstration came after pictures of the victims carried on official state news agency IRNA showed women covered in bandages lying on hospital beds.

Deputy interior minister for social affairs Morteza Mir Bagheri said "three or four" suspects were held in connection with the incidents in Iran's third largest city, which have been condemned by religious clerics as well as ordinary people.

Hossein Ashtari, a police commander in Isfahan, confirmed at least four attacks, according to the official Jaam-e-Jam website, but unofficial reports put the number at up to 11.

Ashtari was reported as saying he suspected that the culprits were likely to be "mentally unstable."

In a description of one of the assaults, IRNA said a 28-year-old woman suddenly lost control of her car, which came to a halt in the middle of a junction.

"Everyone was shocked when they saw the young girl screaming 'I'm burned, I'm burned'," it said.

A witness said they saw the woman get out of her car and take off her headscarf. "The level of acid used was so much that all her clothes were in the processes of melting and I saw the acid create white spots on the asphalt," IRNA reported.

The Interior Ministry and the local government in Isfahan have said they are investigating the matter.

Isfahan's Friday prayer leader, hardliner Mohammad Taghi Rahbar was reported by IRNA on Monday as saying such types of assault "don't exist in any law and don't have any religious backing. The goals of these people is to give religion a bad name."

"No matter whatever excuse is given, even if a woman comes out in the worst possible form, this type of action is not justified. No one has the right to do this type of thing," Rahbar added.

Spurred on by clerical hardliners, Iran's conservative-controlled parliament has been trying over the past few months to pass a law to provide legal protection to Islamic vigilantes trying to enforce Islamic law in Iran, including strict observance of the Islamic dress code for women.

But opposition from moderates allied to President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist elected last year, has triggered intense debate on the issue and slowed down the pace of the legislature.

"We don't need a new law to enforce virtue," Bagheri said, adding that the proposed law needed changes. He did not elaborate.

With a population of more than 1.5 million people, Isfahan is a popular tourist destination due to its many historic sites. Though the attacks have instilled fear in some women in the city, women remain defiant.

"I'm not afraid," Samira, a 30-year-old gym instructor from Esfahan told Reuters. "I won't change how I dress because we must fight against this strain of thought."

Reuters contributed to this report.

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