Skip to main content

Cleric reopens scars of acid attacks after threatening Iranian women

Threats by an influential hard-line cleric against Iranian women with loose headscarves has opened up old wounds left behind in acid attacks perpetrated by religious extremists.
A woman looks at art work made by Iranian victims of acid attacks at the Ashianeh gallery in Tehran on February 28, 2018.
Acid attacks have been an occasional scourge in Iran, with a spate of incidents in 2014 triggering protests and claims they were linked to women wearing "immodest" clothing. Money raised by the show went to Iran's Association of Support of Acid Attack Victims.  / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE        (Photo credit should read ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

“We must make the social environment unsafe for these people. … We can’t let them simply break the norms in streets and parks,” said Ayatollah Yousef Tabatabai-Nejad in reference to Iranian women who violate the Islamic Republic’s mandatory dress code known as hijab. Tabatabai-Nejad is the Friday prayer imam of the central city of Esfahan and a de facto local governor, as is the case with all Friday prayer leaders across Iran. He and his colleagues hold their mandates from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“We should have no fear in facing those norm breakers,” the cleric added, prompting widespread fears about a fresh wave of public violent attacks against women with loose headscarves. Back in 2014, the city of Esfahan was rocked with coordinated chain assaults by religious fundamentalists on motorbikes. The attackers splashed acid on the faces of their female victims, who were mostly caught off guard behind wheels. Of the 12 cases reported, only four ended up in formal lawsuits. And despite pressing demands from a shaken public for speedy trials, the Iranian judiciary declared the file closed four years later, bringing none of the perpetrators to justice.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.