Concern Mounts that Parliament’s “Virtue Plan” is Spurring Attacks
In a continuing series of attacks against women in Iran, a suspect has been arrested for the stabbing of six women in the southern town of Jahrom in Fars Province over the past week. The stabbings follow the numerous acid attacks against women in Isfahan over the last few months, which were allegedly linked to vigilante justice that was aimed at punishing “improper” hijab and encouraged by the Iranian Parliament’s proposed “Plan to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice.”
There is growing concern that the stabbings reflect a continuation of such “Virtue Plan”-inspired attacks, especially as state officials have rushed to dissociate the suspect in the stabbing attacks from the proposed Parliamentary Plan.
Moreover, Saham News reported that the perpetrator is a Basij militia member (an all-volunteer paramilitary force under the supervision of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which is used to enforce the regime’s ideological dictates) and the Parliament has designated the Basij to be the principal enforcers of the proposed Plan.
Mohammad Reza Rezaei Kouchi, the MP from Jahrom claimed on November 30, 2014, that the perpetrator’s actions were not related to the Virtue Plan, and that his motives for the crimes were “completely personal.” In an interview with Iran Khabar news website, Kouchi said, “among the injured, there were women whose Islamic covering, hijab, was flawless. They were even wearing the veil (chador), therefore the claim that the perpetrator’s motivation was to confront poor hijab, to promote virtue and prevent vice is absolutely incorrect.”
According to Kouchi, the perpetrator is Mohammad Beheshtifar, 22, who is the son of Jalil Beheshtfar, an IRGC colonel. “When he learned that his son has committed a crime, Colonel Beheshtifar turned his son in.”
Saham News website, however, said in a news article that the perpetrator was the son of a Basij Commander from Ghotbabad (a village located 10 kilometers outside of Jahrom). Saham News added that in addition to the assault on the women with a knife, the dormitory windows of female Jahrom university students have also been broken over the past week, and classes have been cancelled since November 26 as a result of heightened fear among the students.
Except for one woman who was also stabbed in the stomach, all the women were stabbed with a knife in their buttocks area, according to reports. Four or five of the victims are university students, according the same reports.
It is not clear when the attacks began but the perpetrator, Mohammad Beheshtifar, was arrested on November 27, 2014.
Regarding the state of the six female victims, Jahrom Deputy Governor told ILNA, “they were treated in the outpatient unit and were released from hospital.”
Hojatollah Rezaei, the Jahrom Governor, told Mehr News that the perpetrator “injured six women from behind during this time. In a separate act, he intimidated two women with pepper spray.”
Fars Province Governor, Seyed Mohammad Ahmadi, told Fars News on November 30 that the perpetrator has a personality disorder, rejecting suspicions that his acts of violence are motivated by “promoting virtue and preventing vice.” “No team, group, or organization was involved in these incidents and after arrest, the perpetrator confessed to his crime of attacking and injuring six women in this town,” he added.
On October 16, news of acid attacks by anonymous assailants on women in Isfahan was firstannounced. Many Iranian citizens, including leading members of Iranian civil society such as the prominent lawyer and human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh, have pointed to the Iranian Parliament’s “Plan to Promote Virtue and Prevent Vice” as the root cause of the attacks and demanded an end to the Plan’s review.
There was also a large gathering of citizens and civil and women’s rights activists in Tehran and Isfahan to protest the attacks on October 22. More than a month after the acid attacks took lace, no suspects have yet been arrested.