AWTW: Sex Scandal in Iran's Zanjan University

An extreme fundamentalist professor was recorded demanding sex from a student at Zanjan University -- and the scandal escalated as Iran's religious authorities tried to hush it up.

30 June 2008. A World to Win News Service. Events at Iran's Zanjan University two weeks ago shocked the whole country. Not because people were unaware of the kind of corruption and the abuses going on behind the Islamic codes imposed by the regime, but because this incident concentrated the Islamic Republic's essence. The subsequent developments were also shocking and beyond what the people of Iran, who are well familiar with the logic of the Islamic regime, could believe.

A woman student was brave enough to go up against all the threats of the so-called disciplinary committee and university authorities. She refused to give in to their demands and instead helped gather evidence to prove the corruption and abusive action of university vice-chancellor Hassan Madadi.

An audio recording of his demanding sex from her was circulated.

Tens of thousands of people saw the mobile phone video posted on YouTube showing students seizing him, turning him over to the authorities and demanding that he be charged.

People informed each other by SMS and phone. Again not because people were surprised – many are aware of the dimension of this sort of corruption in this regime – but because they were glad to see that this time this criminal was caught red-handed and he and the government could not get away with it.

This news outraged students and 3,000 took part in protests. A flood of solidarity and support came from other university students. The university authorities, who were in a weak position, tried to end these demonstrations by giving false promises to meet the students' demand. Finally, members of the student Islamic Association associated with "reformers" such as ex-president Muhammad Khatami were determined to use these events to their advantage in their factional fight within the state, compromised to keep the student movement from getting out of their hands and to advance their own factional programme within the government.

But what shocked the people even more came later after the demonstrations ended, as Science and Higher Educational Minister Ali Zahedi claimed that the video didn't prove anything, and the Zanjan prosecutor announced that exposing a "sin" is worse than the sin itself. Hardly anyone could miss what they were up to. It did not take long before the woman student who dared expose this abusive official was herself arrested and accused of having an unlawful affair!

Islamic law requires two adult men witnesses to testify against such abuses – a requirement so impractical that such abuses can never be proved. Islamic logic is clear: women are guilty and they are the source of sin, so that whatever the sin, it is the woman who must be at fault. The fact that the sin occurred and she is a woman is enough evidence to arrest her. Thus the positions of criminal and victim are reversed.

This event shows that the Islamic regime is determined to go ahead with its anti-woman policies, even in the face of a scandal with such solid and undeniable evidence. It also shows that the most brutal oppression of women is a main pillar of the Islamic Republic of Iran. That is why we say that this incident, in a concentrated way, brings out the essence of the Islamic regime.

Women students, who constitute a majority in Iranian universities, are regularly subjected to harassment and threats by the disciplinary committees and the Harasat (Guardian) office of the Universities. The Harasat is a unit in each university that acts as an intelligence and security apparatus, since supposedly the regular security forces aren't allow on campus. They regularly monitor the behaviour and activities of students and even teachers on campus and in the classrooms. They have created a repressive and fascistic atmosphere in the universities and are very much hated by the students.

The irony is that while the authorities of the Science and Higher Education Ministry and the universities never tire of using all their creativity to issue all sorts of strange and highly detailed rules and regulations to control clothing and makeup and the relations between women and men students, and summon students before disciplinary committees and even expel them for violating the Islamic codes of cover or un-Islamic behaviour, at the same time a wide range of university officials and authorities, and in particular Harasat officials, use their power to sexually abuse female students. These two aspects might look contradictory but the origin of both behaviours is the same: a desire to control and oppress women. The government does its best to protect these criminals not only to defend its own thugs, but most importantly, because the oppression of women is a main pillar of the whole system. To take another example, this is how the armed Islamic groups in Afghanistan put pressure on women. They kidnap teenage girls and rape them for the "sin" of going to school or not implementing the Islamic code of cover.

In Iran many of these officials are newly appointed ex-members of the Pasdaran and Basij (the Islamic regime's particular military, the Revolutionary Guards and militia). After the Iran-Iraq war they were awarded university degrees not because they went to classes but as a reward for their service in the war and to the Islamic "revolution" , or because they were members of one of the gangs that formed the Islamic Republic of Iran. All the progressive lecturers were purged during the so-called cultural revolution in the early 1980s. In the last few years, a whole new crop of academics not considered Islamic enough has been purged once again. As a result the universities have fallen into the hands of more fundamentalists and Islamic-committed officials and lecturers who have been abusing their power over students in many different ways, including demanding sex from them.

This Islamisation of the universities has put even more pressure on students and in particular increased the oppression of women students. In turn, women have increasingly taken part in various kinds of rebellious, defiant behaviour and often political action against the state and state-designated officials. They have become an important component of all the student movements, despite the unfavourable conditions and restrictions and limitations on their participation.

What outraged people more than anything else about the Zanjan University incident is that such incidents are not uncommon. As the accompanying 8 March organisation leaflet says, similar cases have come to light in other universities, such as Sahand University in Tabriz and Razi University in Kermanshah and elsewhere. What made this case different is that the students gathered undeniable proof and exposed it to the people before the regime could control the spread of the news.

But at the same time there have been numerous cases that have not been exposed. The fear of social stigma and most importantly the fear of being accused as the perpetrator of sin and charged with unlawful sexual relations have prevented victims from even talking about it to their closest friends or relatives. Shadi Sadr, an Iranian woman lawyer and activist in such cases, wrote in an article, "I have frequently come across case files describing women who have been victims of threats, sexual abuse and even rape. After making a complaint about rape, they are raped once again by a long and difficult legal process that brings them more suffering. Not only do they find themselves unable to prove the sexual abuse or the rape, but ultimately they themselves are charged and punished by the law because they are said to have confessed to sexual relations outside marriage, a fate that unfortunately might await the woman student in Zanjan." (Amir Kabir Technical University Farsi Web newsletter, 20 June)

What is unfortunate is that abuses, threats and harassment inflicted by the security forces and officials, especially in universities, have led many students to commit suicide. According to a report from the Farsi section of the Duetsche welle (Voice of Germany, 23 June), the head office of the Harasat of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education said that out of 28 university student suicides since the Iranian new year began 21 March, 21 were women. The same source reports that "On 16 April this year a Ph.D. student studying Chemistry at Shahid Beheshti University committed suicide with cyanide, four days later a Hamadan student committed suicide; and the next month a female medicine student in Isfahan committed suicide two days after being detained and accused of violating the Islamic codes of cover. Another woman student earlier in the year at the university of Damghan in the northeast of country hanged herself in the dormitory. On 11 June this year a female student in Malayer, a city 200 miles west Tehran, killed herself. The university disciplinary committee had suspended her for one term for unlawful sexual relations." According to the same source, another woman student in the eastern province of Sistan and Balouchestan also committed suicide by taking tablets.

People's outrage at the news from Zanjan University was still boiling when a photo began circulating showing the battered body of a student at Lahijan University in northwest Iran who threw herself from the fourth floor of the engineering faculty where the Harasat office is located. It broke the heart of millions of people who saw it posted on several Web sites, including http://www.autnews. eu/archives/ 1387,04,00010088. It was even more painful when a second female student in Sistan and Balouchestan University also committed suicide. And we know that they were neither the first nor the last.

But fortunately this is not what the harassed and threatened woman student at Zanjan University did. Her courageous actions were able to expose the anti-woman criminal officials and the system that backs them, and gave rise to a remarkable student movement.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - xref

    In the leaden backdrop of the dawn
    the horseman stands in silence
    the long mane of his horse
    dishevelled by the wind.
    O, Lord ! O, Lord!
    Horsemen are not to stand still,
    when the event is brewing.

    Beside the burnt hedge
    the girl stands in silence
    her delicate skirt
    waving in the wind.
    O, Lord! O, Lord!
    Girls should not to remain silent,
    when weary and hopeless
    men grow old.


  • Guest - SexGuruOnVideo

    love the blog, thanx for the hard work!

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    The sterner the prohibitions, the more corrupt and repressive is the sexuality.

    In an earlier life, selling truck parts for heavy-duty trucks, one week I had to hit every place having anything to do with trucks in the industrial areas of Dallas, Texas. I was amazed at how many topless joints there were, and how many of them were set up right next to scads of little fundamentalist store-front churches. Perhaps it was simply the price of real estate, but I think there's a cultural connection as well.

    Seems like a worthy task is taking Wilhelm Reich's treatment of repressed sexuality, patriarchy and social control, from the 'Mass Psychology of Fascism, and translating it into Farsi. Even better, read it in English ourselves for dealing with our own obsessions and demons.

  • Guest - Xref

    “The sterner the prohibitions, the more corrupt and repressive is the sexuality.”

    “I was amazed at how many topless joints there were, and how many of them were set up right next to scads of little fundamentalist store-front churches. Perhaps it was simply the price of real estate, but I think there’s a cultural connection as well.”

    “Seems like a worthy task is taking Wilhelm Reich’s treatment of repressed sexuality, patriarchy and social control, from the ‘Mass Psychology of Fascism, and translating it into Farsi. Even better, read it in English ourselves for dealing with our own obsessions and demons.”

    S.O.S., HELP!

    I’ve tried but failed to understand the meaning of any of the three paragraphs above and their connection to the thread. Am I the only one? It is so embarrasing.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Really? I'm simply drawing a parallel between the repressive sexuality used by the Iranian mullahs for social control, and how it manifests itself in the hypocritical treatment of this woman, and our own home grown versions of the same hypocrisy, save for those in this country not holding power in the most extreme forms--yet, anyway. Reich is the one who, in the work mentioned, has done some of the best analysis of the problem.

  • Guest - Xref

    Thanks for trying. It did minimise couple of possible interpretations. But I am still none the wiser as to your meaning.

    Anyhow, I’m going to give it a go at dispelling some possible misconceptions about Islam, and in particular Shiite Islam in Iran with regard to sexuality.

    The most important thing to note here, is that although there are a lot of similarities between Christianity and Islam, especially the Shiite brand, they do differ on the question of sexuality and sex.

    If I am not mistaken, in Christianity sex is sin, in perpetuation of the original sin (hence the concept of partial or total depravity, depending on which branch of Christianity and the necessity of baptism for babies) and only barely tolerated for the purpose of procreation. Although St Peter was the origin of those concepts, St Augustine took it to new heights of stupidity that even the Catholic Church had difficulty accepting his views fully. The complex guilt trip so prevalent among Catholics and especially in Ireland is rooted in his teachings.

    The reformation movement leaders, namely Calvin and the Luther, though broke with a lot of reactionary things, on these they adhered fully to the concepts as formulated by Augustine. Mormons are the only relatively major sect that differ largely on this question.

    All these highly ideological concepts have had real functional earthly meaning and consequences for people in class society that we all more or less know about though we have differences on.

    But we have to be aware that any psychoanalytic view of sex and sexuality that is rooted in analysis of a society deeply ingrained with such ideological burdens cannot be successfully applied to societies with somewhat different ideological, cultural, social, anthropological and historical burdens.

    This muddle is a major cause of why people from east end up forming such a high percentage of “patients” in psychiatric hospitals in the west. They end up becoming really mentally ill after they visit those “specialists”. While I’m aware of the difference between psychiatry and psychology, I’m merely pointing out a shared wrong methodology.

    Something I have difficulty understanding, and perhaps Carl can help me with, is that given this belief in religious universality of the concepts of sin in sexuality in the west (or more precisely in “Christian world”), neither Fruid, nor Fromme, nor Reich (who were of course different) saw it fit to state that their theories were, at best, highly particular if at all correct. If this charge is correct, they are, at the very least, guilty of Euro-centrism. So is an assumption that if a problem exists in the east, the reason for its continuity is the latest St Paul’s revelations has not been translated for them from the west. I emphasise that it’s the assumption that is the problematic, not that there is nothing here that cannot be learned from here over there. In any case, Wilhelm Reich’s work mentioned was translated to Farsi in the late sixties-early seventies.

    I’ll get to sex and sexuality in Islam shortly.

  • Guest - Xref

    These are some scattered notes I meant to expand and arrange in a more coherent way. That has to wait. I guess what i'm trying to do is a give a glimpse of what the adversary looks like and believes in. without this, we would end up engaging our adversaries on false premises and end up being disarmed.
    For what its worth, here is part of the picture; I'll try to "paint" a fuller picture later on.

    Islam, while acknowledging the original sin, rejects the Christian version of it. It sees no perpetuity and transference of the sin from the original sinners (Adam and eve) and hence rejects all variants of the concept of depravity. They do not view the act in itself as sinful but the defiance of god as the original sin.

    In Islam, sexuality is not repressed; people are repressed through sex. In other words, people are not repressed by repressing sexuality; sex and sexual activity is encouraged, but in a certain social relationship that sex becomes a tool of oppression of society, mainly a tool in oppressing women. Social organisation of sexual activity turns men into petty-stakeholders in the system. Males are privileged in their sexual relation and interaction with women. Islam sanctions the right of men to withhold sexual interaction as a form of punishment. Women, on the other hand, have no such right to refuse sex on demand to their partner under any circumstances. There are certain times and circumstances that penetration is prohibited, but that does not warrant a woman withholding sexual favour and satisfaction by other means and methods.

    Unequal contractual sexual interaction
    Temporary marriage in shiite islam: you can negotiate a temporary contract of marriage with the opposite sex for as short a duration as you can both agree on. Males can enter into as many of this type of contract as they wish, concurrently and in addition to their “permanent” marriages but women are limited to one man at a time and a ninety-day interval in case she chooses to go with a different man. They of course have the option of renewing their contract if they wish. It is all perfectly legal and moral. In fact there are huge local, regional and national religious organisations dedicated to promoting and facilitating this type of marriage in Iran. Sort of equivalent of dating agencies in the west. These contracts need not be institutionally certified. Self-certification is valid as long as there is one or two witnesses. There is a dispute as to the necessity and the number of witnesses, and the validity of such contract agreed upon verbally.

    Sex with animals is also permitted and its regulations specified in various theological books by Khomeini and others.

    Sex change is also theologically and legally allowed in Iran.
    Underage sex and what may be called paedophiliac is also allowed through marriage contract.
    In islam, celibacy is sin; male or female.

    If you ask a clever Mulla what is the islamic view on sex, chances are you would probably hear them say: “Islam organizes human nature but does not go against it.”

    Sex is not inherently sinful in Islam; they celebrate sex in their own way.
    Sex is not just for procreation, but also for recreation too. That’s why they have no problem with contraception; neither barrier nor hormonal.Sex is also encouraged even after menopose.

    It is also a well known fact that Mohammad the prophet of Islam had married to 40 year old Khadija when he was 25 and stayed married to her until her death at 68. He is reported (Hadith) as having related to his followers that they had an active sex life right till the end. He later married the 9 year old Aisha and many others in his mid fifties on. And again, it is reported that he was sexually active with all of them. These anecdotes are highly relevant since in all branches of Islam, he is regarded as the perfect model of man to be emulated.

    Islam tells men that women are your farm; saw your seeds in them.
    In Quran in verse 23 of the chapter on women (An-Nissa), mohammad prohibits marriage/sex with married women, unless they were purchased (as in slavery) or they were captured in war. That is the basis of moral and legal justification of rapes committed with impunity during the Iran-Iraq war by both sides and similarly in Afghanistan by Taliban and Jihadis of various kind, and in Dharfur.

    More on Temporary marriage:
    There is contention between Shite and Sunni on the permissibility of temporary marriage in Islam. The Sunnies do not dispute that Mohammad had permitted this in the early stages of his mission. However, they say that there is evidence (in Hadith) that he had later prohibited it. Shiites dispute this and say such Hadith are not reliable. Sunni rational is that since free sexual interaction was prevalent in the Arabian peninsula at the time, the early Moslems needed a weaning off period and that’s why Mohammad allowed it for a time; not that he wasn’t against it. Shiites reject this rational by saying that there was a lot of other things that were prevalent at the time; why didn’t Mohammad allow an intermediate weaning off period on those issues?
    This dispute should not confuse people on the great unity among different branches of Islam on the relationship between males and females. Whereas Shiites are very “strict” on the rules governing divorce of “permanent” marriages, Sunnis could be argued to be lax and vague. There is no dispute on the overwhelming right of men to summarily divorce women on grounds of sexual dissatisfaction. And of course no dispute on polygamy.

    Temporary Marriage in Arabic is called Mutta. The word is a derivative of Istimtta, meaning to satisfy or extract satisfaction from. The choice of word makes it abundantly clear that this type of contractual sex has nothing much to do with procreation and all to do with recreation of (mainly) men.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    Your views on Christian sexuality are a bit overdrawn, but no matter.

    Your account of Islamic sexuality, however, fits with Reich's exposition of repressive sexuality to a 'T', especially with patriarchy and its political order. There's no guilt if you operate within its strictures, supposedly, but there's plenty if you don't, and it can cost one dearly, especially if you're a woman.

    So what's your point?

    Mine, and Reich's, is that part of the struggle against repression in the political sphere includes working for the emancipation of women in the social sphere, and that includes a change in the burden of repressive sexuality, to more democratic approaches to sex education and sexual practices. Simply recognizing any individual's right to say 'No' to sexual advances without repercussions, and be taken at their word, would be a major advance, East and West. And there's nothing repressive about saying 'No' to sex. It simply means we can choose our sexual partners, or not, the beginning of non-repressive sexuality.

    And given the context of the general strictures against women in Islamic society, even the 'temporary marriages' you describe, are still pretty much rigged against the women.

  • Guest - Xref

    A detour:
    Marx once said the hidden enslavement of women and children in the family unit by men was the first form of slavery.

    From this short but penetrating observation by Marx, three fundamental things could be stressed:

    first, the role of family unit as the field and the context of facilitating and forming the exploitative relations on the basis of division of labour which its primary excuse was and still is the difference between the sexes.

    Second, that the seeds of the formation and development of classes in human society was sewn in that very primary domination of males over females in the family unit –the origin and the start of patriarchal system.
    Third, is that with the formation of classes, throughout the history, women have suffered continuous male domination in one form or another.

    Engels also said that the first shoots of the formation of classes started with this very division of labour between men and women. A division of labour that eventually gave rise to the prevalence of private property as the mainstay of oppressive relations to date. Therefore the source of respect for and endurance of private property is also this very enslavement of women by men.

    Throughout this intertwining history of class and gender oppression, religions have played a key ideological and political role in the superstructure of human society.
    It is no accident that there is a close correlation between the history of class and that of religion.

    One can always ask the same principal questions, from all religions and all their branches, and find the same basic answers.
    Perhaps one could say there is not much difference among those adhering to Marxism, up to this point.
    Divergences appear, however, as soon as we go beyond these and try to deal with the intricacies of religion, as fine-tuned through millennia, new ones building upon the old, not necessarily always moderating themselves on those major questions as time goes by, but hiding it in yet more layers of tradition, norms, and “rational” justification.

    What we have to do is to take into account and deal with all these different and differing layers of justification and fight them on two different but interrelated levels: theoretical and political.

    On theoretical level, we have to recognise each religion has had a somewhat different history that has given rise to different dynamics and mechanisms through which they have managed to sustain the same fundamental interests and relationships in human society.
    I am certainly not the one to argue, based on these real differences among religions and religious forces that, one is better than the other or one is the lesser evil.

    What I am saying is we can’t have a single battle plan for all fronts in a war and expect victory.

    “And there’s nothing repressive about saying ‘No’ to sex.”

    Here is a case in point of having a single plan for all fronts. I would expect this from a dogmatist but not a pragmatist.

    I can assure you that in an Islamic context men will be highly oppressive by sexually depriving a woman as a form of punishment. This statement confuses the Islamic context with that of the post 60’s west, where the fight is still on, to establish the right of women to say no to sex and sexual advances and be taken seriously. That “no” is not the same as this “no”; one is to enforce the enslavement of women, the other is fight it; one is reactionary, the other revolutionary.

  • Guest - Carl Davidson

    The Islamic male's 'no' is different because the women are in bondage. Otherwise, she could simply seek another partner, but here she risks her life to exercise her own choices, make her own advances, or not.

    I have no single plan, although the goal, basic human rights and dignity, I would apply to all, and no one has the right to enslave another, however velvet-lined the cage.

  • Guest - Xref

    Someone recently sent me a link to a TV clip from Saudi Arabia, where an articulate and seemingly modern man is discussing in Arabic his views on differences between men and women.

    Equiped with the lates computers and drawing programmes, and putting on an air of scientific reasonning he embarks on proving within two minutes why men are superior to women.

    What makes this interesting to me is that this is not just the views of a man in Saudi Arabia only; it is much more widespread and transends borders. There has been a change and a definite shift in a qualitatively worst way in the usage of sexist language by men in Iran in the recent past, for example, that is very revealing of the role of religion in the superstructure of that country.
    Prior to 79 revolution in Iran, men, among themselves, when wanted to be derogatory and put someone down, they would often use a very powerful but seemingly satirical sentence: “Koss Khol shodeh.” Meaning litterally “he’s become pussy mad.” The connotations being the man not having had sex for a while, has gone mad and is talking nonsense. This was widely used by men for generations among different classes and nationalities.

    It has now changed and in similar situations men are saying “koss maghze shodeh.” Meaning literally “ he’s become pussy brained.” The connotation being the man thinks like a woman. This shift in the wrong direction and for worst is clearly the result of prevaling Islamic culture and ideology in that society.

    Here is the transcript from the Saudi Arabian clip:

    (If the moderators are interested in embeding the clip, let me know so I’ll e-mail the link.)

    Alllah created men and women each with their own nature.
    Let us see together:
    Lets say this is the man. I am now drawing the man, for example, in this shape.
    And lets suppose this is a woman, in this shape.
    This is just an example of course.
    We can see that if the man wants to speak, his thinking always……
    This is his thinking you see here……..
    preceding his words.
    In a man thinking is no. 1 and talking is no. 2.
    This is how a man moves, thinks, and speaks.
    If we turn to a woman, generally……
    Of course I’m not speaking of all women and all men, but about most of them……
    we can see that in a woman……….
    speech comes first for woman.
    For a woman, talking is no. 1.
    Talking precedes thinking.
    Thinking comes only after she talks.
    That is why in many cases a woman speaks or begins a subject or a story….
    she begins, for example, with a sentence or two, or may be three, and then we see a woman say, after she already started talking, “No, no, no, this is not the subject I am talking about.” And she starts another subject that she really wanted to talk about.
    This is because in the first subject, her talking preceded her thinking.
    She spoke, but when she started thinking, she realized that this subject is not appropriate to this situation or to these people. Then she begins to retreat inteligently, and begins another subject.
    On the other hand, we see that the man keeps silent. We assume he is silent, but his brain is working. It is working and working and so, may be it is delayed. A man’s brain works for a long time, even over simple matters.
    Sometimes a woman raises an issue, or even two issues, and she asks her husband, “why are you silent?”
    But of course he is not silent. His brain is working and working.

  • send the clip please.

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