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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Oppressed women in the Muslim world and controversial ‘World Hijab Day’

Back in 2013, an Islamist activist named Nazma Khan called to observe ‘World Hijab Day’ on February 1 every year to promote hijab amongst Muslim girls and women throughout the world. During the past one decade, this event has steadily grown from a minor social media event into the World Hijab Day Organization, a well-funded 501(c)(3) non-profit, “committed to dismantling bigotry, discrimination and prejudice against Muslim women”, as its mission statement proclaims. This event and organization have been receiving massive financial support from a number of Islamist nations, including Qatar, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan.

This year, following the brutal murder of Mahsa Amini in Iran, Afghan Taliban regime’s cruelty on girls and women and forcing them to put on hijab and worldwide protests against hijab, no one dared celebrating World Hijab Day in 2023.

Nazma Khan, the founder of World Hijab Day chose February 1 for the event which coincides with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s return to Iran in 1979 from exile in France and staging Islamic Revolution, thus establishing a reign of terror in that country. Since then, hijab has become a symbol of oppression and cruelty on girls and women in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In October 2022, Iranian rock climber Elnaz Rekabi competed without wearing a hijab in the International Federation of Sport Climbing championship in Seoul, South Korea, which was widely seen as her solidarity towards protesting Iranian females. On her return, Elnaz Rekabi was forced to issue an apology and later she has disappeared. But cruel Iranian mullah mafia regime was not satisfied with it. They sent their Islamist thugs to demolish Rekabi’s family home.

Iranian chess player Sara Khadem also competed at 2022 December’s International Chess Federation Championships without a hijab. Now she is living in exile in Spain as she would also become a victim of forced disappearance on her return to Iran.

While Islamic Republic of Iran is forcing girls and women in wearing hijab, the mullah regime is involved in running “halal” prostitution, sex tourism, while the leader of Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was known as a pedophile.

Iranian clerics or Mullahs, who are in the administration, have long exposed their nasty faces as mere pimps, who are selling their girls and women to a number of countries as well as tourists in that country. Iranian girls and women are continuing to be sold as ‘Jihadist Tools’ to various nations with millions of dollars.

While Iranian rulers pretend to treat prostitution or sex trade as taboo since it became Islamic republic in 1979, it is evidently proved that poor governance of it is not only pushing thousands of Iranians into prostitution, but in many cases, those Mullahs are the ultimate beneficiaries of growing sex trade in that country.

In the 1970s, Bostonians looking for a proverbial good time went to the “Combat Zone” and New Yorkers flocked to 42nd Street; in contemporary Iran, the ‘holy city’ of Qom is known [unofficially] as a place of ‘both pilgrimage and pleasure’. There, prostitutes wearing veils and even chadors mill about temples or sit together in public courtyards where men can inspect them.

Sometimes a male go-between [most of them are clerics] offer “introductions,” at which point the prostitutes pull aside their headgear so the potential client can get a glimpse. For an outsider, it’s difficult to pick a street girl out of a crowd. Qom may have become a prostitution hot spot due to the abundance of shrines.

Young female runaways with no shelter come to the city knowing they can take refuge at ‘holy sites’ by sleeping in rooms intended for pilgrims. They have no way of making a living. So, after a while they get involved in the sex trade. The city’s young theological students and transient tourists form the main clientele.

Of course, Qom isn’t the only place in Iran where prostitutes walk on the streets. Back in 2002, the Iranian newspaper Entekhab estimated that there were nearly 85,000 prostitutes in Tehran alone. In that city, and especially in nearby suburbs, there are neighborhoods where heavily made-up prostitutes in traditional garb stand idly at traffic circles. Prospective customers drive by slowly to check out, then make a deal. The visual difference between an ordinary citizen wearing makeup who happens to be standing alone and a prostitute is, again, quite subtle. Apparently, mistakes are not uncommon.

Officially, the penalties for prostitution are severe—ranging from whipping to execution. But there’s a loophole in the Islamic law called Sighe and Mut’ah, or temporary marriage. According to Shiite interpretation, a man and a girl or woman may enter an impermanent partnership with a preset expiration date.

There’s no legally required minimum duration [a day, a week, anything goes] and no need for official witnesses—unless the woman is a virgin, in which case she needs the consent of her legal guardian. An Iranian who’s wary of arrest can simply escort a prostitute to a registry, obtain a temporary contract from a Muslim cleric, and then legally satisfy his sexual needs.

And here is the point, where clerics get the opportunity of working as the pimp for that girl or woman. In most cases, Iranian mullahs maintain networks with national and international prostitution rings, where they supply these women, who possess a temporary marriage certificate [issued by the cleric], giving them the chance of entering the profession with a legal license of Islamic mask.

Prostitutes wear their veils loosely over their heads in a style that passes for risqué in this strictly regulated society in Iran. The sex workers are often young, including many teenagers who have run away from abusive homes.

Based on an official figure of 2012, there were some 300,000 females who work as prostitutes in Iran. And according to newspapers, the number is steadily rising. Acute poverty and unemployment are compelling many of the Iranian females in choosing prostitution as a profession.

Some affluent Iranians have established under-cover offices in the United Arab Emirates and other Arab nations as well as countries like Thailand, Maldives, Indonesia, Philippines etc, wherefrom they are trading in Iranian girls and women to the prospective individual clients or brothel operators. There are facilities in those covert pimp houses of conducting Mut’ah marriage via Skype, WhatsApp etc, where Mullahs sitting in Iran conduct such ‘marriages’ against the payment of fees.

In recent times, several prominent conservative clerics have proposed that prostitutes be placed in government-run shelters for destitute females to be called “Chastity Houses,” where male customers could briefly marry and enjoy them under Islamic law. Proponents of the idea argue that it would “eradicate social corruption” by legitimizing sexual relations between the men and women.

Under the plan, the couples would register for a temporary marriage under Iran’s Shiite religious law code. The code allows a man to marry a girl or woman for a mutually agreed time as short as a few hours by reciting a verse from the Koran. Supporting the plan, Ayatollah Mohammed Mousavi Bojnurdi said: “We face a real challenge with all these females on the street. Our society is in an emergency situation”.

Hojatolislam Mohammed Taghi Fazel-Meibodi, a member of Qom Seminary, told RFE/RL’s Persian Service that the proposal is religiously legal.

He said, “Our young people are troubled. There is poverty, unemployment, and more and more girls are escaping from their homes. In a society where there are sharp differences between rich and poor, rich men will use these poor females for a quick thrill and to satisfy their impulses and lust”.

Supporting the temporary marriage system, Iranian clerics say, such marriage helps easing social discontent among young men who are forced by the struggling economy to late marriages. The socialist-style economy is unable to provide new jobs to absorb the large numbers of young men and is plagued by double-digit inflation and unemployment. As a result, many young men are unable to afford to start families, and the average marrying age has jumped from the early 20s, common three decades ago, to about 35 today.

Temporary marriage or Mut’ah phenomenon became common in Iran after Mullah’s regime had legalized this kind of marriage and made it a legal marriage throughout Iran through establishing offices to arrange that marriage for persons who seek it. The Iranian regime appointed clerics in these offices who intervene in conducting this marriage for persons who seek a sex under the garb of Mut’ah marriage. If we contemplated the concept of the temporary marriage or Mut’ah, Mullah’s created and gave legal religious features, so we would find that this marriage is a kind of masked prostitution.

On other hand, women, who repeatedly enter into this type of covered prostitution called Mut’ah for many times, become unapproved by their societies for permanent marriage. Finally, they become slaves in their old ages. Mullahs have turned Iranian girls and women into sex slaves, who are sold and bought as commodities similar to those women in the dark ages. Such practices are nothing new in Islam.

Ancient Arabic predecessors of Iran did the same thing when they invaded Persia before 1400 years ago and enslaved its females and transferred them to Arabic regions to be sold in markets as slaves. Mullahs made Mut’ah as an approach for clerics, officials and members of revolutionary guards in getting the cheap and covert sex workers.

These are the ‘rights’ radical Islam has granted to Iranian females. It turned the girls and women, who used to enjoy civil rights under Shah’s time, into female slaves.

Iran has turned into a cheap market for Arabs coming for cheap and legitimized prostitution under the cover of temporary marriage.

In today’s Iran, educated women seeking affluence are also entering prostitution. Such things happened in the former Soviet Union following the collapse of communism in 1990. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today’s Iranians suffer from scarcity and tremendous inflation.

Prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, 2009 the Austrian daily the Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. “More than 90 percent of Tehran’s prostitutes have passed the university entrance exam, according to the results of one study, and more than 30 percent of them are registered at a university or studying,” reports Der Standard. “The study was assigned to the Tehran Police Department and the Ministry of Health, and when the results were tabulated in early January no local newspaper dared to so much as mention them”.

The Der Standard added, “Eighty percent of the Tehran sex workers maintained that they pursue this profession voluntarily and temporarily. The educated ones are waiting for better jobs. Those with university qualifications intend to study later and the ones who already are registered at university mention the high tuition [fees] as their motive for prostitution … they are content with their occupation and do not consider it a sin according to Islamic law”.

Prostitution as a response to poverty and abuse is one thing, but the results of this new study reflect something quite different. The educated women of Tehran choose prostitution in pursuit of upward mobility, as a way of sharing in the oil-based potlatch that made Tehran the world’s hottest real estate market during 2006 and 2007.

Iranians already behave like defeated people. That is why they are so unstable, and so dangerous. The new Persian Empire masquerading as an Islamic Republic is a wounded beast. The rural misery and urban squalor drive Iranian women into the brothels of Dubai and Brussels.

The proliferation of Iranian prostitutes in Western Europe as well as the Arab world helps explain the country’s population trends. The European Commission’s most comprehensive surveys of human trafficking found that Iranian women made up 10-15 percent of the prostitutes working in Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. ‘Fatima’ from Persia has become as familiar as ‘Natasha’ from Belarus or Uzbekistan. Iranian whores have long been a scandal in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, which periodically round up and expel them.

It is hard to obtain reliable data on prostitution inside Iran itself, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it has increased since Ahmadinejad became president in 2005. Anti-regime sociologists claim that at least 300,000 women are whoring in Tehran alone.

When Mohammad Khatami became president in May 1997, there were optimistic predictions that changes were on the way. Despite all the propaganda, mullah Khatami and his administration’s deeds point to the fact that mullahs’ ‘moderation’ is nothing but a mirage. Khatami was just as committed to the medieval system of Velayat-e-Faqih that Khomeini founded. His administration was no different than previous governments, and rests on the same basis of fanatic fundamentalism.

In that context, his views on women came as no surprise. Speaking to Salaam newspaper on May 11, 1997, just days before his election, Khatami declared: “One of the West’s biggest mistakes was the emancipation of women, which destroyed the family… Staying at home does not mean being pushed to the sidelines… We must not think that social activity means working outside the home. Housekeeping is among the most important of tasks”.

Contrary to all of Khatami’s attempts to put a positive spin on the mullahs’ misogynist treatment of women for international consumption, his cabinet did not include even one woman. The appointment of a woman, Massoumeh Ebtekar, as deputy for environmental protection, was supposed to reflect “moderation” and Khatami’s attention to women’s rights. But this woman vice president was not “moderate”, and was notorious as a staunch advocate of suppressing women’s rights. As a Spokesperson for the hostage-takers who captured the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979, she once told an ABC Television correspondent that she was personally willing to take a gun and kill the hostages. [The New York Times, January 28, 1998].

In an interview with Die Tageszeitung on October 18, Ebtekar defended discrimination against women and medieval punishments, like stoning. In response to a question on stoning to death, Ebtekar said: “One should take the psychological and legal affairs of the society into consideration as well. If family rules and regulations are broken, it would result in many complex, grave consequences for all of the society”.

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Khatami’s predecessor, who headed the powerful Council to Determine State Exigencies, is on record as declaring unequivocally that women are inferior and must be treated differently under the law: “Justice does not mean that all laws must be the same for men and women… The difference in the stature, vitality, voice, development, muscular quality, and physical strength of men and women shows that men are stronger and more capable in all fields… Men’s brains are larger… Men incline toward reasoning and rationalism while women basically tend to be emotional. These differences affect the delegation of responsibilities, duties and rights”.

Mullah Mohammad Yazdi, the then Head of the Judiciary, also emphasized the subservience of women: “If kneeling before God were not obligatory, wives should have knelt before their husbands.” He also said: “A woman is wholly the possession of her husband, and her public life is conditional upon her husband’s consent”.

These blatantly prejudiced views shed light on how discriminatory legislation against women has been proposed, adopted, and enforced in Iran since 1979. All the existing laws in Iran, which deal with the rights of women, arise from the stereotyped presumption that men are endowed with the right to dominate women. A man can divorce his wife freely and has the right to retain custody of their children. Article 105 of the Civil Code stipulates: “In the relationship between husband and wife, heading the family is characteristic of the husband.” The Islamic Council of Guardians decreed that “a woman does not have the right to leave her home without her husband’s permission, even to attend her father’s funeral”.

Reports from inside Iran reveal that the mullahs’ regime has also intensified its attacks on the population, particularly against women and youths, and harassment in the streets by ‘Hezbollah’ [Party of Allah] mercenaries is on the rise. Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on November 30, 1997 that “Iranian security forces arrested a large number of women for improper veiling or attire that was not compatible with Islamic regulations”.

The AFP correspondent witnessed police forcing many young women into patrol cars in northern Tehran. About ten young women, some of whom were wearing colorful head scarves and light make-up, were witnessed in a police vehicle in Vanak’s shopping mall.

Such incidents shed light on the circumstances of girls and women in Iran. Even a brief glance reveals the catastrophic consequences of their abuse and exploitation at the hands of the fundamentalists.

Girl children suffer the worst conditions in Iran today. According to the clerical regime’s rules and regulations, a girl child can virtually be bought and sold with the consent of her male guardian. Article 1041 of the Civil Code provides that ‘Marriage before puberty [nine full lunar years for girls] is prohibited. Marriage contracted before reaching puberty with the permission of the guardian is valid provided that the interests of the ward are duly observed”.

It has become common practice to sell or force very young girls to marry much older husbands, giving rise to all sorts of social ills. Adineh magazine wrote in summer 1991: “An 11-year-old girl was married off to a 27-year-old man. The father, who had seven daughters, received US$300 for his consent. The morning after the marriage ceremonies, the girl was taken to hospital suffering from severe lacerations to her genitals”.

The state-controlled daily, Ressalat, reported on December 15, 1991, that due to extreme poverty and the absence of the most basic facilities, the deprived people of northern Khorassan sell their young girls for as little as $33. The buyers, mostly from Gonabad, take the girls away and put them to work on farms and in workshops. In the impoverished province of Sistan-Baluchistan [southeastern Iran], girls eight-ten years old are sold by their drug-addicted parents for US$4. Children are routinely abused in the labor force, and girls as young as four are used in the brick manufacturing, carpet weaving, and textile and clothing industries.

According to the penal code, a nine-year-old girl can be punished as an adult by flogging, execution and even stoning. Given the arbitrary punishments and the virtual lack of due process of law, large numbers of children have been executed, in many cases without being officially charged or even having their identities established.

In a report on November 22, 1994, the United Nations Special Rapportuer on violence against women said “the public stoning and lashing of women serves to institutionalize violence against women. The Special Rapportuer received many allegations of such violent punishments being inflicted on women in the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

Khomeini’s decree of raping virgin female prisoners

According to a special ‘religious decree’ issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, virgin women prisoners must be raped before execution to prevent their going to heaven. A Guard conducts the rape the night before their murder. The next day, the religious judge at the prison issues a marriage certificate and sends it to the victim’s family, along with a box of sweets.

Tens of thousands of women have been subjected to cruel torture and execution. One method is particularly revealing: The Revolutionary Guards fire a single bullet into the womb of female political prisoners, leaving them to bleed to death in a slow process of excruciating pain. Even pregnant women are not spared, and hundreds have been executed with their unborn children. Many defenseless female prisoners are held in what are euphemistically referred to as ‘residential quarters’ in prisons, where the Guards systematically rape them in order to totally destroy them.

In an eyewitness report, Amnesty International revealed how the small children of many young women in Evin Prison are viciously abused. Witness Helmut Szimkus, a German engineer, told Amnesty International they are kept “because they are an asset to the prison authorities for gaining confessions”. Szimkus, who was released after serving a lengthy sentence in an Iranian prison, said he witnessed several cases where Iranian children were tortured in the presence of their parents. “One time these guys [torturers] raped a nine-year-old girl. The parents had to watch. The father shook and rattled so badly that he could no longer sign the espionage confession they put before him”.

The social environment embedded in the misogynous views, laws and policies of the fundamentalist regime naturally spawns corruption, making it increasingly difficult for women to survive. Women bear the brunt of the economic difficulties and social barriers and restrictions. Large numbers of deprived women have been forced into prostitution or become addicted to drugs. Meanwhile, the clerical regime, touting Islam, claims to accord “divine respect” to women.

“It is appalling. Never has prostitution been so rampant. But everything is done behind the veil,” Mahin, a 47-year old female Iranian jurist purged by the mullahs, told Helen Kami, the French journalist for Elle magazine who visited Iran in January 1997. Kami writes: “Prostitutes regularly roam Gandhi Street in north Tehran. At 5 p.m., we go to Istanbuli Street, also in north Tehran. The cab drivers, looking for wealthy or foreign patrons, are driving slowly. In exchange for only $1 [500 Tomans], they can provide you with girls, alcoholic beverages, heroin and hashish”.

Many more of the social consequences of the mullahs’ rule date back to the destructive, meaningless Iran-Iraq war, dragged on by Khomeini’s regime for eight years. In this case, too, women and children suffered most. Since it was very difficult for a widow to provide for herself and raise a family in Iran’s highly patriarchal society, multitudes turned to prostitution as the only means of survival. According to the Associated Press of July 21, 1989, the arrest of a war widow for prostitution touched off a national scandal, because the woman had prostituted herself as a last resort to feed her family.

Ressalat, a state-controlled newspaper, reported on July 3, 1991: “Three large brothels were discovered and shut down in Tehran in the past month alone. Thirty-eight women were arrested. Most of the arrested women said during interrogation that they had turned to prostitution as a result of poverty”.

Islamic Iran’s “marriage for minute”, a practice of perversion

According to the Shia version of Sharia law, marrying a girl [either adult or infant] is legitimate in Iran. Any male can marry a girl or woman in that country, which has been under the cruel grips of Mullacracy for decades, simply by performing a religious ritual, which takes less than a minute. In most cases, such ‘Marriage for Minutes’ or ‘Mut’ah Marriage’ take place to meet mere sexual desires of the men.

First of all, let us have a glimpse of the existing marriage law in Islamic Republic of Iran. In Iran, marriage law has become extremely complicated, confusing and mostly against the rights of women. Let me begin with a quote from a fatwa by the late and unlamented Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, where the readers will possibly understand the state of mind of the Islamist clergies on this particular issue:

“A man can marry a girl younger than nine years of age, even if the girl is still a baby being breastfed. A man, however is prohibited from having intercourse with a girl younger than nine, other sexual acts such as foreplay, rubbing, kissing and sodomy is allowed.

“A man having intercourse with a girl younger than nine years of age has not committed a crime, but only an infraction, if the girl is not permanently damaged. If the girl, however, is permanently damaged, the man must provide for her all her life. But this girl will not count as one of the man’s four permanent wives. He also is not permitted to marry the girl’s sister”.

Other forms of sexual abuse inflicted on children by Muslim clergies include fondling of genitals, coercing a child to fondle the abuser’s genitals, masturbation with the child either as participant or observer, oral sex, anal or vaginal penetration by penis, finger or any other object.

Another technique used by Muslim clergy is called ‘thighing’. The child’s legs are pressed together and the abuser inserts his penis between the thighs of the little girl. This was approved of by Ayatollah Khomeini who in his Little Green Book asserted “It is not illegal for an adult male to ‘thigh’ or enjoy a young girl who is still in the age of weaning; meaning to place his penis between her thighs, and to kiss her”.

While Islamist apologists may argue that sex slavery exists around the world, exploiting innocent girls, women, boys and men, the fact will remain that in these Muslim nations this human-rights abuse has become institutionalized, with government-run brothels in Iran, for instance, offering what is called Mut’ah [Marriage for Minutes allowed by Shia version of Islam] or a temporary contract that allows men to ‘marry’ for sexual purposes women other than the four concurrent wives.

Many of these brothels are near ‘holy sites’, so that male pilgrims can “relieve their urges” while on a ‘religious’ pilgrimage.There are roughly 300 brothels only in Tehran. Head of Iran’s Interpol bureau believes that sex trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today, which continues very much within the knowledge of ruling clergies, government officials, and members of the Revolutionary Guard.

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Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury is an internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, writer, research-scholar, counterterrorism specialist and editor of Weekly Blitz. Follow him on Twitter @Salah_Shoaib

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