A New Wave of Acid Attacks Targets Women in Iran

The Iranian city of Isfahan has seen a disturbing trend in the past few months: a string of eight acid attacks against women, which in some cases have disfigured or blinded the victims. All of them, according to the Associated Press, have played out in the same way: two men on a motorcycle have driven by women sitting in a passing car. While one steers, the other flings acid at a woman’s face. On Wednesday, thousands of protesters marched in both Isfahan and Tehran, Iran’s capital city, to demand justice for the victims and punishment for their suspected attackers.

The New York Times reports that the attacks coincided with the passage of a new law,
“designed to protect those who correct people acting in an un-Islamic way.” Its critics fear it would legitimize the behavior of vigilantes who roam city streets “correcting ” people, usually women, who they believe are behaving or dressed immodestly. (The law has been incredibly controversial; even President Hassan Rouhani doesn’t support it.) At least two thousand people protesting the attacks and the new law massed in front of the local judiciary office in Isfahan, while several dozen marched in front of the parliament building in Tehran. Some compared the attackers to ISIS, according to the Times, shouting “Death to extremists.”

There’s been some speculation that the attacks were made against women who the attackers believed were dressed “immodestly,” but local police in Isfahan told reporters they don’t think that was the case.

“The victims belong to observant [Muslim] families,” police chief Gen. Ismaeil Ahmadi Moghaddam told local reporters, according to the AP. One, according to TIME, was 26-year-old Soheila Joerkesh, who’d been out swimming with friends on the afternoon of October 13 when she pulled over to talk to her mother on the phone. Seconds later, a motorcycle pulled up beside her and a man threw a glass container filled with acid into her face.

Chief Gen. Moghaddam also said that all the attacks are believed to have been perpetrated by the same men. Four suspects have been arrested, but it’s not yet clear what police believe their role in the attacks to have been. A spokesperson for the Iranian judiciary said that, if convicted, the men should face the “most serious punishment,” meaning execution.

Image via AP.

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