POLICE DECLARE WAR ON PROSTITUTION
Agence France Presse
May 22, 2002
authorities are smashing up one prostitution ring after another in
a determined effort to eliminate a phenomenon which is totally
banned in the Islamic republic but is growing in line with its
"The enemies are trying to spread corruption here to deal a
blow to our country," Iranian police commander Mohammad-Bagher
Ghalibaf said at the weekend.
The police "are ready to pick up all street women and
prostitutes in less than 72 hours across the country," he
added. Since then media reports have spoken of hundreds of arrests
in a crackdown affecting notably Tehran and Iran's second city of
Mashhad, which is holy to Shiite Muslims.
Some 150 people including 44 women were arrested in Mashhad, in
the biggest crackdown on vice since the 1979 Islamic revolution,
the official IRNA news agency said Monday.
Eight brothels were "discovered and closed and a number of
mobile phones, cars, motorcycles, pornographic films as well as
alcoholic beverages" were seized.
The daily Entekhab reported Wednesday that the elite Revolutionary
Guards had busted four prostitution rings centred on Tehran which
had been sending young Iranian girls to France, Britain, Turkey
and Arab countries of the Gulf and arrested more than 100 people.
The report, which said the rings were based on 30 brothels in the
capital, was believed to be the first to mention an international
network with Iranian and foreign members -- whose nationalities
were not mentioned -- and links with European countries.
Other smaller operations were reported from Babol and Sari in the
north of the country.
Prostitution was a thriving industry under the former shah but
banned after the Islamic revolution.
However it has been making a comeback amid rising unemployment and
economic problems, but was still officially taboo before 16
prostitutes were found murdered in succession in Mashhad in 2000
Said Hanai was arrested and hanged for the murders, but parts of
the conservative press hailed him as a hero.
Seeking scapegoats, many officials accuse "foreign
enemies" of being behind the rise in vice.
Tehran justice chief Abbasali Alizadeh said last week "the
United States and Israel have invested a great deal to spread
Western culture and corruption among our youth (and) to destroy
Islam and our revolution".
But police chief Ghalibaf's deputy, Amir-Ali Amiri, quoted Tuesday
by the daily Hambasteghi, admitted that "80 percent of street
women sell their bodies to pay for their daily needs."
Amiri said most prostitutes were young women who had run away from
home, a phenomenon which he also attributed to economic factors.
"When the breadwinner can no longer feed the family, this
leads to break ups," he said. "A girl who runs away can
only survive by joining the ranks of perversion."
Officially unemployment in Iran has hit 13 percent but is much
higher according to independent experts. No figures are available
on the number of prostitutes, although "street children"
in Iran are estimated at 200,000.