Reporters Uncensored (RUTV) : Behind the Global Web series
-- Zach Schubert
While the world was watching the election battle in Iran, unspeakable things were happening behind many doors in towns and cities across the country. The election got out attention and Iran's impassioned citizens kept it. Now secrets are starting to seep out from an overflowing cesspool of vile where miscreants thrive.
As part of our continuing focus on Iran, this week RUTV will explore the sexual trafficking of girls. In a recent report by the U.S. State Department, Iran was listed among the dozen countries with the poorest record of human trafficking. In recent years, child prostitution has risen 635 percent in the country, and dozens of Iranian girls are brought to Arab countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh to be sold as sex slaves every day. Most of these girls are raped within 24 hours of their departure, according to government officials.
In Tehran, there are an estimated 84,000 women and girls in prostitution, many of them are on the Streets, others are in the 250 brothels that reportedly operate in the City. Thousands more are trafficked abroad, landing as far away as France, Germany and the United Kingdom. Many of these are runaways from Afghanistan and Pakistan who flee abuse and poverty at home in search of legitimate work in Iran.
Other girls are sold into prostitution under the guise of a short-term marriage, or sigheh, which is permitted under Shari'a law in certain Shia schools. These marriages can last anywhere from one hour to several years, depending on a fixed contract. Under Shari'a, these marriages require the written consent of both parties. The reality, however, is that the contract is often brokered on behalf of the husband.
So far, Iran has demonstrated an abysmal lack of effort towards reigning in sexual trafficking. When brothels are brought down, the people most often punished are the girls themselves. Unwilling to distinguish between consensual intercourse and rape, officials will torture and execute girls for violating Iran's standards of behavior. In one particular case cited in the State Department report, a 16 year old girl was hanged after being accused of "engaging in acts incompatible with chastity."
Says the report, the religious judge who ordered the execution later received a letter of congratulations from the town's governor, thanking him for his "firm approach."
Further, officials themselves have been accused of running child prostitution rings. In one prominent sting operation, several government officials and security officers were arrested during raids on at least five houses used as brothels around the town of Neka in northern Iran. Officers from Iran's State Security Forces and Islamic Revolutionary Council have been arrested in brothels on multiple occasions.
One tragic consequence of prostitution in Iran has been a spike of HIV/AIDS infection in recent years. HIV awareness education is minimal there compared to in the West, and many who become infected are afraid to seek help. The Iranian government has vastly undertreated and under-reported cases, considering the disease a taboo that points towards sex outside of marriage.
Joining us via Skype this week is Nahid Persson, director of the documentary Prostitution Behind the Veil. The film features the story of two young prostitutes in her native Iran. It has been widely honored, recieving an International Emmy nomination, as well as the Golden Dragon at the Krakow Film Festival and Best International News Documentary at the TV-festival 2005 in Monte Carlo. Tala will be asking her perspective on the situation of child prostitution in Iran, as well as ways to get involved in stopping it. We're live at 6pm (EDT) Wednesday and on demand a www.livestream.com/reportersuncensored.