Where’s #MeToo for Persian Victims?


For the crime of shaking hands with her lawyer, cartoonist Atena Farghadani was forced to undergo a “virginity and pregnancy test” prior to her 2015 trial in Iran on a charge of “illegitimate sexual relations.”

Commenting on her case, Said Boumedouha, deputy director at Amnesty International, said, “The Iranian judicial authorities have truly reached an outrageous low, seeking to exploit the stigma attached to sexual and gender-based violence in order to intimidate, punish or harass her.”

Seeing the waves of protests that have broken out in recent days throughout Iran, I thought of all the other Persian women who must be praying to be liberated from such insidious oppression.

Why are they not part of the #MeToo movement?

Well, for one thing, because in Iran, women pay a price for speaking up. Farghadani herself, in addition to her “illegitimate sexual relations” trial, was sentenced to 12 years and nine months in an Iranian jail because she drew cartoons that “insulted” members of Parliament.

As I wrote back in July 2015, “Farghadani is not alone. There are thousands like her languishing in Iranian prisons because they had the nerve to oppose an evil and oppressive regime. How oppressive? According to Human Rights Watch, ‘In 2014 Iran had the second highest number of executions in the world after China, and executed the largest number of juvenile offenders. The country remains one of the biggest jailers in the world of journalists, bloggers, and social media activists. ’ ”

Since then, after the 2015 nuclear deal that empowered Iran with billions in sanctions relief, the oppression has only gotten worse.

According to Amnesty International, “Iran continued to execute children in 2016,” including hanging 17-year-old Hassan Afshar because of homosexual activity. At least 49 inmates on death row were convicted of crimes committed when they were under 18 years old.

In March 2016, the United Nations Children’s Rights Committee noted that in Iran “flogging was still a lawful punishment for boys and girls convicted of certain crimes” and that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) children had been subjected to electric shocks to ‘cure’ them.”

The committee also reported that “the age of marriage for girls is 13” and that “sexual intercourse with girls as young as nine lunar years was not criminalized.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

How is all of that for motivation to run on the streets and storm the barricades of theocratic despots who treat women and children worse than slaves?

Yes, those are the same despots who suckered the West into empowering their evil regime in return for an agreement that, at best, delays a nuclear Iran by a decade.

And they’re the same despots who have been wreaking havoc throughout the Middle East while remaining, according to the latest U.S. State Department report, “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

“Who knows? Iran may change,” President Barack Obama said to Thomas Friedman of The New York Times in April 2015, around the time that Atena Farghadani was being sentenced to jail for her cartoons.

Of course, at the time, Obama was eager to conclude his legacy nuclear deal, which may also explain why he stayed so quiet when protests erupted on Iranian streets in 2009. Instead of betting on the Iranian people, Obama spent his two terms in office betting on the mullahs who were oppressing those very people.

Obama was as passionate about his deal with the mullahs as he was silent about those who were hanged for being gay or women who were jailed for speaking up.

In his zeal to promote his deal, he kept making hopeful comments that all those billions in sanctions relief would help the Iranian economy and trickle down to ordinary citizens. As he told Friedman, he hoped the deal would “harness the incredible talents and ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Iranian people” and empower the nonviolent forces inside Iran who’d want to “excel in science and technology and job creation and developing our people.”

Two years later, the only thing that’s trickled down to Iranian citizens is more oppression and misery. But why should that surprise us? Obama bet on evil, and evil bit him right back.

The Iranian evil includes blatant corruption. For decades, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has accumulated assets of about $95 billion through an organization, Setad, that was created to help the poor but has morphed into a business juggernaut.

As detailed in a Reuters investigation:

“Khamenei’s grip on Iran’s politics and its military forces has been apparent for years. The investigation into Setad shows that there is a third dimension to his power: economic might. … Setad gives him the financial means to operate independently of parliament and the national budget.”

That is what evil does — it grabs more power so that it can stay in power, even if that means jailing women, hanging gays and conniving the West into releasing billions, all in the name of God.

It’s an unfortunate timing that this week is our annual Mensch issue, where we focus on human decency and goodness. Maybe the contrast between mensches and oppressors will spur people to launch a #ThemToo campaign, this one on behalf of desperate victims risking their lives right now on Iranian streets.

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