Last week, we brought you the tragic story of young, beautiful Parivash Akbarzadeh, who recently died in a car accident while driving the fast, flashy Porsche of Mohammad Hossein Rabbani-Shirazi, the upperclass scion of a prominent clerical family. The story highlighted the ostentatious (and often un-Islamic) lifestyle of Iran’s ruling elite, which apparently busies itself with perpetuating the very inequality Iran’s Islamic Revolution purported to end – all while Iran’s middle class struggles under the weight of sanctions. So it was hardly surprising that the tragedy ignited social media protest throughout Iran.
And yet, Akbarzadeh’s story, and what it says about the lives (and deaths) of less-than-privileged Iranian women, shouldn’t have come as a shock – after all, she lived under the same regime that executed a 26-year-old woman, Reyhaneh Jabbari, for killing a member of Iran’s intelligence service after he apparently attempted to rape her.
Now, if some reports are to be believed, it would seem that Jabbari’s story has recurred: last week, a 25-year-old woman, Farinaz Khosravani, jumped from a fourth floor-room of the hotel in the northern city of Mahabad where she worked as a maid, allegedly after an Intelligence Ministry official who was staying in the room raped her or threatened to do so. Being a woman and a maid she was also Kurdish, part of a minority group, and violent protests erupted in the wake of her death (deemed an “honor suicide”) – with the hotel itself eventually being set aflame by the rioters.
The unrest, in which several protesters were injured, made it to the English-language media, too: The Daily Beast published a report on it (sourced from Iran Wire) under the tagline “horrific,” crowned with a photo of Khosravani; Al-Jazeera also devoted some coverage to the incident, focusing on the “violent protest” . Over at The New York Times, Thomas Erdbrink tried to separate fact from fiction, carefully attributing the allegation that it was a government official who had threatened to rape Khosravani to “news on the internet.”
Whatever the truth may be, could the outcry over these recent incidents indicate that Iranian society is no longer willing to tolerate the mistreatment of women (and minorities, and other ordinary citizens) at the hands of the clerical regime – be it politically, economically or physically?