Newark, Delaware (Special to Informed Comment; Feature) – Corruption exists in every country and comes in many guises: economic corruption, social corruption, political corruption. But in many corners of the world, corruption meets resistance; it is investigated, and the perpetrators are often held to account.
When major Hollywood actors and directors, and sports coaches, were implicated on sexual harassment charges, they were put on trial and their credentials were taken away. They faced hefty fines. Even the 45th President of the U.S., Donald Trump, has been indicted for sexual harassment and rape, for misappropriating government documents, and now, for seeking to overturn a national election and invalidate the Constitution.
In many countries in the Middle East, matters tend to be different. Even if those charged are found guilty, they and their backers can buy judges, lawyers and prosecutors.
Recently, a scandal involving corruption broke in Gilan, a province in northern Iran.
In Gilan, two men, holding high positions of power, both in charge of the local branch of the “vice and virtue” department, while holding others responsible for “indecent behavior,” are now accused of engaging in sodomy. Sodomy in the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic carries a severe penalty, lashes and, potentially, the death sentence.
“All sexual activities that occur outside a traditional, heterosexual marriage (i.e., sodomy or adultery) are illegal. Same-sex sexual activities that occur between consenting adults are criminalized and carry a maximum punishment of death—though not generally implemented.”
Almost a year ago, Mahsa Amini, the young Kurdish woman who became a global symbol of women’s struggle in Iran, was beaten to death for having a little hair shown. The man who hit her on the head and caused her death was never tried nor taken to jail. He was protected by a judicial system that is utterly corrupt.
A revolutionary situation ensued. Some called it the first feminist movement in the world. All over Iran and the world people came out in the streets to show support for Iranian women in their quest for equality and their wish to be free of mandatory hijab and other restrictions.
Now there are at least two well-known cases, one of a married cleric who went on TV and preached piousness while at night engaged in sodomy with his brother-in-law. His name is Mehdi Hagh Shenas and he has long been the direct representative of Supreme Leader Khamenei in Gilan. He is shown in one of his TV shows, in clerical robes, discussing the cause-and-effect relationship between sin and illness. “Lacking decency and moral depravity are both sinful,” he proclaimed.
Then there is the case a Mr Seghati, who also engaged in sexual relations with a man while he held the position of the director of what is called the Department of Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong, a moral injunction that goes back to the Koran.
A few years ago, Saeed Tousi, Khamenei’s favorite Koran reader was exposed as a child sex predator, taking young boys to Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca and raping several of them. A court acquitted him.
In an interview with BBC Persian, he denied reports that the office of the Supreme Leader had influenced the outcome in his case.
The young cleric who engaged in sexual relations and text messages with his in-law suffered the harshest punishment meted out for this kind of behavior by being defrocked; others were temporarily marginalized and then given other positions. All the while, hundreds of women and men are stopped, detained, and given long sentences for harboring the ordinary desires of any young person.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, those who commit crimes and are closely related to Khamenei’s beyt (household) have never been held responsible. They are protected by the system–a corrupt system that holds the victim in contempt and releases the criminal.
In 2021, a blogger and the founder of Amad News, Ruhollah Zam, whose father had named him after Ruhollah Khomeini, exposed the corruption of the regime’s officials. He was later abducted while traveling to Iraq from France, kidnapped, and taken to Iran. He was in prison for nearly a year and later, without ever being told that he had been sentenced to death, was executed.
The married judge who sentenced him to death had also texted with a woman asking for sexual favors.
Ruhollah Zam’s crime? He had exposed a regime of corruption.
A year later, his father, who had worked closely with the regime, defiantly took off his clerical robe in protest of his son’s unjust execution.
When asked in a townhall meeting in NYC, at Columbia university in 2005, the then newly elected President of Iran Ahmadi Nejad responded to a question about the suppression of gays in Iran, by saying that “We don’t have gays in Iran!” eliciting laughter from the audience.
Hypocrisy is rife in many places. Arguably the most notable example in this country is that of Trump’s personal lawyer, Roy Cohn, who went after gays (and communists) during the McCarthy era and later came out of closet. He was the epitome of evil.
In Iran, too, “pious” men are often the most hypocritical and dishonest men who, not only engage in lewd behavior, but engage in unspeakable suppression of our women. This is the well-known problem of clergy malfeasance, from which Iran is not immune, to say the least.
They have never been tried nor held responsible.
Such are the laws of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and such laws must be eliminated.
Iran needs a total overhaul in every sector and in every aspect of its society especially in its corrupt judicial system.