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March 02, 2007

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LeftyHenry

I am looking forward to IWD, I think there are some big things planned here in New York.

Mukhtaran Mai: she shamed the rapists instead of being silenced by rape – a book review
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007

26 February 2007. A World to Won News Service. “The night in June is still full of the heat of the day; the birds are asleep, the goats too. A dog is barking somewhere in a silence that is not comforting at all, a silence that gradually turns into murmurs. I move forward until I find myself confronted by the gaze of angry men… More than 100 people, maybe 150, the majority Mastoi (an upper caste tribe or clan) have assembled near the mosque. Most of them are members of the Jirga (an assembly of the village elders); the few who disagreed with this decision have already left.
“At the moment, in front of me there are the tribe’s chief Faiz Mohammed, as well as Abdul Khaliq, Ghulam Farid, Allah Dita and Mohammed Faiz, armed with rifles and one pistol. They aim their arms toward the men of my clan who are behind me. The Mastoi clan is gathered behind them. The men are threatening, excited and impatient…”
This is how Mukhtaran Mai describes the evening of 22 June 2002 in the village of Meerwala, in the Pakistani province of Punjab, moments before a brutal aggression that was to change her life and eventually provoke outrage around the world. She tells her story in the book written in collaboration with French journalist Marie-Thérèse Cuny called Deshonorée in the French edition (J’ai lu, 2006) and Die Schuld, eine Frau zu sein in the simultaneously published German version (Droemer Verlag). It is not available in other languages.
She was sentenced to be gang-raped by a Jirga dominated by the Mastoi, just as most village Jirgas are dominated by influential feudal tribes. Mukhtaran was not accused of doing anything herself: she was to pay for a supposed wrongdoing by her 12-year-old younger brother Shakoor, accused of having sexual relations with a woman of 20 from a Mastoi family.
The Mastoi men first raped the young boy in the fields, beat him and then handed him over to the police to be jailed. Initially the Jirga said it wanted Mukhtaran to apologize for her brother, but “I could see from their eyes that these men never had intended to accept an apology. They wanted a woman from our Gujjar (poor peasant) family in order to take revenge in front of the whole village… Faiz turned to his brothers, who like him were impatient to obtain ‘justice’, and said… ‘She is here! Do whatever you like with her!’”
What happened to Mukhtaran is not an exception or a rare incident that occurred by misfortune. It is the reality of life for many millions of women in Pakistan and other countries who have to bear brutal patriarchal oppression in many different ways, whether in the form that Mukhtaran went through or other kinds of rape and violence. In the vast majority of cases, those events go unrecorded. The only measurable result is the suicide or murder of many of the young women involved. Uncounted others are shattered for the rest of their life.
“In the fourth or fifth day of my self-imprisonment finally for the first time I burst into tears… I felt guilty that I was raped. This was a terrible feeling because it wasn’t my fault. I can’t forget it. I couldn’t talk to anyone about what happened to me… to remember this terrifying night is agonizing… I wish I could just get rid of all my memories once and for all, but I can’t.”
The lives of these women are changed forever. In addition to their inner torment, most of them become vulnerable to more violence and more cruelty. Considering the stigma that follows such cases and the inevitable abuse at the hands of the police and the authorities if they seek justice, and the absence of any other way out of their situation, suicide is to be expected – and often what the village rulers seek. Mukhtaran was not an exception. According to the rules of her society, she was “supposed” to kill herself, and in fact she seriously considered that option in those difficult days: “I wanted to commit suicide. I took a decision. This is what women in my situation do. I wanted to swallow acid and die, to put out the flames of my shame once and for all…because in the minds of others I was already dead. When my mother found out (what I planned to do), she burst into tears and prevented me; night and day, she did not leave me alone for a minute… over the following days, my helplessness began to enrage me. I just could not continue to live that way.” Finally her decision to speak out at any cost gave Mukhtaran the power to live again.
In Pakistan, a woman gets raped every two hours on average, many of them in particularly cruel ways such as gang rape or abduction. In most cases the victims have to hide it, even from their family. Further, under Pakistani law, rape cases are tried in religious courts under Islamic law, and rape victims can be accused of zina (adultery, sex outside marriage) and end up on trial themselves. It is almost impossible to prove a rape case in the court. According to Pakistani law (which in fact is Sharia or religious law) brought into force under the rule of the US-backed General Zia 1980s and still in effect, in order to prove a rape four male “believers” must testify as witnesses on her behalf.
At the time that Mukhtaran was gang raped, her brother Shakoor was in jail. When the decision of the Jirga was carried out on her, the police did not release Shakoor before getting in touch with Faiz. Faiz told the police not to release the 12-year-old before getting money. “The police demanded 12, 000 rupees, a tremendous amount of money… my father and my uncle went around to the cousins and the neighbours to raise it.” Shakoor was freed but the story was not over. “They were victorious over my brother and me but the war was yet to start. The Mastoi are all armed, they are a caste of warriors, and we have only burning sticks and no powerful allies”. In simple words she explains how the feudal Mastoi tribe functions. Now her eyes and ears perceive what she had ignored before. She learned that they had already plundered and attacked other relatives and other families in the village. “The police are aware of that. They also know that no one has the right to complain against the Mastoi, because those who dare will be killed immediately. No trial is possible. They have been there for generations. They know people who are members of parliament and have all the power, not only in our village but in the police department of our region. They exercise complete domination.”
This is not specific to the village of Meerwala. It is the way that the vast majority if not all the villages in that country and many similar oppressed countries function. This is how the state and ruling classes control the villages and their people, relying on the power, arms and brutality of their social base, who are mainly the richer clans. This is why the Mastoi and similar clans in other villages have control over the Jirgas and connections with police, and influence over other government agencies. And that is why the Mastoi felt it necessary to reject any sort of compromise in the Jirga and instead demonstrate their dominance. Their real goal was certainly not justice; it is not even really to take revenge against a poor family, because they invented the pretext. Their goal was to enforce their power by brutalising the people. That’s why they insisted on carrying out their foul aggression in front of all the villagers – they wanted to terrorise the whole people and show off their brutality to everyone. As Mukhtaran explains, “They wouldn’t agree to anything but raping me in front of the whole village.” The tribal system gives them the power “to decide who is their enemy, who should be smashed, humiliated, robbed, raped with complete impunity. They attack those who are weak, and we are the weak.”
What made Mukhtaran’s case different was the chance role played by a journalist who was against the decision of the Jirga and reported the incident in a local paper. The news spread quickly and angered people in many places in the country and abroad. The government was forced to react, although clearly that was against its will. But they were determined to defend and preserve their kind of “justice” enjoyed by oppressors and feudals against the poor and women. In their first move, government officials filed a false statement indicating nothing happened. Since she couldn’t read and write, they made Mukhtaran put her fingerprints on that statement. In most cases the authorities simply refuse to file any “preliminary report”. But the news had already spread all over the world and it was too late for the police to go on that track. When the court finally delivered a verdict against the rapists on 31 August 2002, six men were condemned to death. Another eight defendants were freed. But on 3 March 2005, an appeals court, after a long trial, and to the astonishment and disbelief of the world, found five of those already convicted not guilty and reduced the sentence of the sixth to life imprisonment. Mukhtaran describes her sense of frustration when despite the widespread publicity her case had generated, the aggressors were shamelessly released by the justice system. But she didn’t give in.
Under pressure from people all over the world and international human rights organisations, the Pakistani government could not easily get away with this scandalous verdict. Finally in June 2005 the Supreme Court had to order new trials for all 14 defendants.
Mukhtaran’s persecution, however, continued – this time at the hands of the highest levels of the Pakistani state. Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf himself intervened to put her under virtual house arrest. She had to be prevented from speaking to journalists at home, and forbidden from travelling abroad because, he said, she would “badmouth Pakistan”. He accused her of letting herself be used by “Westernized fringe elements as bad as the Islamic extremists”
Even after being forced to return Mukhtaran’s passport and publicly announce that she was “free to go wherever she pleases, meet whoever she wants and say what she pleases”, Musharraf continued to attack her and women in general. In Pakistan, he said, women’s claims that they had been raped were “a money-making concern” and should not be taken seriously.
Eventually, in 2006, Mukhtaran was allowed to go abroad to speak at the UN headquarters in New York.
Despite the role played in her favour by some Western NGOs, the attempts to silence Mukhtaran were also rooted in the interests of the US, UK and other Western powers. Musharraf is one of the US’s closest regional allies and plays a key role in the US’s global efforts, as reaffirmed by US Vice President Dick Chaney and UK Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett in their recent visits to Islamabad to meet with him. Previously, during the Cold War, Pakistan played an important role in the US-sponsored war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and in contention with India. The emergence of General Zia, notorious for promoting the Islamization of Pakistan whose core is the oppression of women, was not irrelevant to that aim but directly related to it.
Mukhtaran has now founded two schools in her village with the money she received as compensation and donations. She believes that the education is the solution for the women of Pakistan. She also is very much concerned about women’s rights in Pakistan and how to help women who are victims of violence. She writes that “not a single day goes by” when she does not receive a visit from “women in a state of shock seeking help”.
The firmness and determination that Mukhtaran showed in pursing her case and her refusal to follow the norms were based on great courage. Her decision to speak out and fight for justice was what gave her the “power to live”. This courage and determination has inspired millions of women in Pakistan and others around the world, in societies similar to Pakistan and the so-called advanced countries of the West as well, where many women have taken up her case because they feel it is connected to their own oppression as women. (Actually, rape is far more frequent in many Western countries than in Pakistan.)
Some people have presented Mukhtaran’s case as a sign that change is possible within the system. But if you really look into what happened and why, you can see that her rape and the official efforts to justify that rape concentrate the character of an entire economic and social system whose very existence is based on oppressing the people, including the oppression of women. As long as there is no revolutionary change in the prevailing system in countries like Pakistan and the world imperialist system it is part of, there will be no fundamental change in male domination over women.

Iranian Maoists: US military threats and political turbulence in Iran
Tuesday, February 6th, 2007

5 February 2007. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement by the Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist) dated 23 January 2007.
Despite the opposition of the majority in the US Congress, George Bush is determined to inflict military strikes on some of Iran’s oil and nuclear facilities. Bush’s new Defence Secretary Robert Gates sees such a show of power as a prerequisite for negotiations with Iran. He said that the transfer of an additional American aircraft carrier to the Gulf is intended to put pressure on Iran. In addition, the US has equipped its land bases and warships in the Gulf with Patriot missiles. These missiles are capable of knocking down Iranian ballistic missiles. US officials say that these measures are meant to protect Gulf states and oil installations against a possible military reaction by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The revelation of these plans sparked opposition and protests from Democratic and some Republican members of the US Congress. Several senators pointed out that any attack against Iran without Congressional approval would be illegal. White House officials responded that they have no intention of attacking Iran, but that this option is still on the table. They added that at the present time they are not willing to negotiate with Iran since they would not have the necessary leverage. In this respect, the new Defence Secretary, who in the past supported negotiations with Iran, said the Iranians are “overplaying their hand” on the world stage if they believe that setbacks in Iraq have weakened the United States – now is not the time to negotiate with Iran because the US lacks leverage. “Right at this moment, there’s really nothing the Iranians want from us… And so, in any negotiation right now we would be the supplicant…We need some leverage, it seems to me, before we engage with the Iranians… Until the Iranians are persuaded that, despite being bogged down in Iraq, the United States is in fact a formidable adversary, there’s not much advantage for us in engaging with them.” (International Herald Tribune, 18 January 2007)
It seems that in parallel with lowering the bar for its aims in the Middle East (having gone from seeking “to restructure the Middle East” to settling for “security in Baghdad”), the Bush cabinet has downsized its policy on Iran too, from military attack and occupation to “building leverage” to be used in negotiations. How they are going to build this “leverage” and what that would look like is not clear yet. Military strikes, the occupation of oil installations and paralysing Iran’s economy – all of this could be on the list. Under pressure from reporters who asked whether or not an attack against Iran is imminent, the US Defence Secretary replied: We don’t need to have an open war on Iran. We have other ways to proceed.
By other ways, Gates, in fact, means a “dirty war”. A dirty war is a war that the US wages indirectly by organising criminal bands. John Negroponte, recently appointed as Deputy Secretary of State, specialized in launching such wars when he served in Latin America. For a long time the US, British and Israeli intelligence services have supported and trained criminals and non-political bands in Iran in order to launch such a war. The highly armed drug traffickers, reactionary heads of tribes in Iranian border regions, mercenary political forces and bands from the Revolutionary Guards and Iranian Hezbollah security forces all could be helpful to the US in sowing terror and committing crimes. The present situation in Baghdad is a perfect example of such a combination of efforts, and the Iraqi people are paying the price, with more than 100 people killed every day. The Defence Secretary is right when he says that the US does not need to launch a war like the one in Iraq and can do it in another way. That is why at the same time that US aircraft carriers are being sent to the region, arms are being sent to paramilitary groups in Baluchistan and Arab paramilitary groups in Khuzestan who are trained under the supervision of a British task force.
“Diplomatic” pressures on the Islamic Republic
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized that another important part of the new Bush policy is stepping up US diplomatic activity in the Middle East. She said that she was “trying to construct a geopolitical framework of moderate Sunni and Shiites into a stronger, and more active, alliance against extremist Sunni and Shiite states – meaning Syria and Iran.” (IHT 19 January). She referred to a coalition of Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Other US ruling class officials say that in the framework of this plan the Bush cabinet has made some “proposals” to Iran and Syria. They say that Iran has two choices: accept a secondary role in the security structure of the region or choose to take an Islamic fundamentalist approach and wait for punitive actions. In relation to this policy, the sheikhs and kings of the Gulf States have already shown concern about Iran’s “imperialist” moves in the region and have jointly demanded that the US give them access to “nuclear technology”! The US has also promised them that it would stop “Iranian imperialism”. Recently secret negotiations between Israel and Syria have been revealed. According to reports, Israel has agreed to make some concessions to Syria in return for Syrian pressure to transform Lebanon’s Hezbollah into becoming a political party in the framework of the present political system of that country and also for Syrian help in achieving the security that the US is looking for in Iraq.

According to this new “diplomacy”, the axis of the construction of a regional alliance of the Middle East countries would be the US Army. The US armed forces central command for the whole Middle East and Central Asia is in Qatar at the present time. The main purpose of the new pressures on Iran is to force the Islamic Republic to accept a secondary role in the security structure of the Gulf and the Middle East. There is no doubt that even to be given this secondary role, Iran must prove itself by helping to “secure” Iraq. Bush is prepared to use military strikes against Iran in order to enforce his new “diplomacy” in the Middle East, but these measures are not part of a plan for expanded military attacks on Iran or occupation. In any case, the new plan has already met many obstacles and much opposition, and it is not clear what outcome it will produce when applied.
Bush’s unsolvable difficulties
Bush’s “new” plan for Iraq will not be able to solve the US’s difficulties in Iraq or the Middle East. Although Bush has greatly reduced the US’s goals in Iraq to achieving “security” in Baghdad, even so, to achieve that goal they would have to be able to neutralise Iran and persuade the Gulf States, Turkey, Egypt, the European countries and Russia to actively cooperate with America. The US is sending more than 20,000 more soldiers to wipe out the Shia militia networks and demolish the Sunni resistance in Iraq. Adding a few thousand American troops to the anti-guerrilla war would only mean adding to the number of dead US soldiers in the coming months.
It is not possible to end the activities of Shia and Sunni militias without neutralising their respective supporting states. All these networks are strengthened by the support of one or another regional state that in turn is connected to the networks of one or another imperialist country. This is similar to the situation in Afghanistan, where the Taleban are once again able to expand and advance with Pakistani support. In the Lebanon war, Hezbollah stopped Israeli tanks with the help of recently received Russian missiles. Bush intends to neutralise the Islamic Republic of Iran by military threats and economic and political pressures and convert it into a compliant collaborator. But any sort of military move against Iran would cause strong reactions, both from within the American ruling class and the unhappy people of the US. Britain, the strongest US ally in Iraq, will withdraw its forces from Iraq this year. The Gulf states consider Iran the main threat in the Middle East but they also have doubts about Bush’s new plan.
Disorder within the Islamic Republic
The UN Security Council resolution that imposed sanctions on a few of the Islamic Republic’s big financial and trading groups has allowed the US to interfere with the movement of ships in the Gulf and also interrupt banking connections between Iran and the outside world (especially the main trunk that goes through the Dubai banking system). So far eight European banks have cut off relations with Iran. This situation has produced anxiety among the Iranian big bourgeois compradors, most of whom are leading members of the Islamic Republic. It has caused particular concern in the Islamic Alliance Party (Hezbe Motalefe Islami), which represents the biggest businessmen who are dependent on imperialist-controlled finance and trade. According to a report in the newspaper Kargozaran, the leaders of this party met with officials of Iran’s National Security Council to warn that the regime should take a moderate approach toward the nuclear project in order to prevent damage to the country’s “economy” (in other words, these people’s plundering). At the same time, the newspapers Islamic Republic (close to “supreme leader” Ayatollah Khamenei) and Hamshahri (close to national security chief Larijani) have criticised Ahmadinejad for his “excessive” approach towards the nuclear project. The arrest of some Revolutionary Guard leaders in Arbil (Iraqi Kurdistan) by US forces was another move that scared the heads of the Islamic Republic. After this incident, on 18 January Iraqi President Talabani, who has played an important role in the deals between the Islamic Republic and the US, said that “for the sake of the historical record” he wanted to state that “the Islamic Republic is prepared to negotiate and cooperate with the US on all security issues in the Middle East from Lebanon to Afghanistan”.
The US is bogged down in Iraq and the internal situation of the US is increasingly in crisis, but the US’s critical situation will not spare the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Islamic Republic is part of the rotten and extremely reactionary and anti-people structure of the whole Middle East. The US needs to put pressure on the Islamic Republic, and with every wave of these pressures the IRI’s internal cracks and fissures get wider. These contradictions and crises create the best situation for the intensification of the radical political struggle of different strata of the people. Struggling to overthrow the Islamic Republic and consciously resisting the US imperialists and all the alternatives it has for Iran is the correct political orientation and the main dividing line in the political movement and the mass movements of workers, students and women in our politically turbulent society.

• The Fish
By Shamlu

I don't suppose
my heart was ever
warm and red
like this before.

I sense that

in the worst moments of this black, death-feeding repast
a thousand thousand well-springs of sunlight,
stemming from certitude,
well up in my heart.

I sense, further, that

in every nook and cranny of this salt barrenness of despair
a thousand thousand joy forests,
stemming from the soil,
are suddenly springing.

Oh, lost certitude, oh, sea-creature
fleeing in the concentric,
shivering,
mirroring pools,
I am the clear pool:
mesmerized by love,
search out a path for me
among the mirror pools.

I don't think
my hand was ever
strong and alive
like this, before.

I sense that
at the flow of blood-red tears in my eyes
a duskless sun pours forth a song.

I sense that

in my every vein,
in time with my every heart beat,
the warning bell of a departing caravan tolls.

She, bare, came
one evening
through the door
like the soul of water.

At her breast
two fish
In her hand a mirror
Her wet hair,

moss fragrance, intertwined moss.

On the threshold of despair,
I bellowed: Ah, oh retrieved certitude.

I won't put you again aside.

************

Another Iranian woman will be stoned to death
Jul 27, 2006
AKI


An Iranian woman convicted of killing her husband and of having extramarital sex has been sentenced to death by stoning. The sentence of Ashraf Kalhori could be carried out in the coming weeks, her lawyer said. With various fatwas, or religious edicts, issued in 2003, some ayatollahs had asked judges to stop giving death sentences by stoning, in favour of alternative punishment.

Reports from Iran over recent months however indicate that sentences ordering death by stoning are again being issued: at least five in the past 12 months.

"Fatwas are not enough to stop this barbaric and medieval practice," said Shadi Sadr, a women's rights lawyer. "Single judges are not obliged to respect the fatwas. To stop stonings, we need a change to the law," said Sadr in a telephone interview with Adnkronos International (AKI).

"My client, who has been held for five years in Tehran's Evin jail, three days ago received a judicial ordinance which announced her imminent execution by stoning," she added.

As the lawyer of Ashraf Kalhori she has filed a statement of repentance and remorse on her client's behalf, but repeats that the problem must be tackled at the source and called on international public opinion to mobilise against the practice of stoning in Iran and in other Muslim countries where the laws derive from the sharia or Islamic law.

Another display of barbaric culture of islam

"In Iran, beyond the specific case of Kalhori, women are very concerned about the return of stoning, which has been suspended for several years," added Shadi Sadr. "For this reason, womens groups and feminists are working on a public awareness campaign to force the government to adopt a moratoriuim on stoning," she added.

"Such a campaign, even abroad, could help us in our battle for the rights of women and against this barbarity" she concluded.

Atheist

Most of the self-proclaimed anti-hindus in India think that deserting hinduism and embracing christianity or islam or any other religion can solve the problem of religious fundamentalism in India. It is wrong. Religious fundamentalism is even high in christianity, islam, judaism and other religions. We are often hearing news about christian fascist George Bush and islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden targeting innocent people including children. We even see pictures of victims killed or injured by violence between christian imperialism and islamic terrorism on internet and in print media but Indian pseudo-secularists still try to convince people that christian fundamentalism and islamic fundamentalism are less dangerous than islamic fundamentalism. Hindus are significantly more only is few countries. Hindu fundamentalism is danger to few countries only. Christianity and islam are danger to the whole world.

Christian, islamic and jewish cultures are also very oppressive like hindu culture. In 1983, some pro-RSS women marched in New Delhi demanding to legalise sati practice. What a shame? Christianity and judaism also promotes such severe superstitions. According to islamic fundamentals, if any married women has extramarital affair, she should be stoned to death and the man who had extramarital affair should be just beaten with hunter. According to jewish law (torah) also woman should be stoned to death if she has extramarital affair. Is there significant difference between degree of oppressiveness between these religions? Indian pseudo-secularists try to convince people that women are having better freedom in islam and christianity comparing to hinduism. It is a ridiculous lie. In India also we can see some islamic fundamentalist organisations openly issuing fatwahs that muslim women must wear burqas.

Most of the Indian pseudo-secularists who justify religious conversions into christianity are not completely aware about christianity. For example: They don't know that in past, christian and jewish fundamentalists also banned widow remarriages like hindu fundamentalists. Now widow remarriages are permitted in many religions including christianity, islam and some castes of hindus but now also christian widows who remarry are less in number. My friend who lives in christian dominated country Australia informed me that many of the christian widows didn't remarry. If we are not completely aware about a specific religion, we must not justify conversions into that religion. There are many ridiculous cultures in religious societies including christian, islamic, hindu and jewish societies. We must think what is rational and what is irrational rather than blindly following religious traditions.

Atheist

Tehran, Iran, Apr. 23 – Two men and a woman were flogged by authorities in the town of Ashkaneh, north-eastern Iran, state media reported on Monday.

The three unnamed individuals were accused of “moral corruption”, the state-run news agency ISNA said, adding that all three were given 100 lashes.

Both the men were lashed in a town square in public, a local prosecutor was quoted as saying, while the woman was lashed in a different location.

Under Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, adultery by a married woman is punishable by flogging and stoning. The law is very specific about the manner of execution and types of stones which should be used. Article 102 states that men will be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts for the purpose of execution by stoning. Article 104 states, with reference to the penalty for adultery, that the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones”.

Atheist

A measure of the success of Islamists in controlling society is the depth and totality with which they suppress the freedom and rights of women. In Iran for 27 years, the ruling Islamists have enforced humiliating rules and punishments on women and girls, enslaving them in a gender apartheid system of segregation, forced veiling, second class status, lashing and stoning to death.

Islamists have added another way to dehumanize women and girls: buying and selling them for prostitution. Exact numbers of victims are impossible to obtain, but according to an official source in Tehran, there has been a 635 percent increase in the number of teen-age girls in prostitution. The magnitude of this statistic conveys how rapidly this form of abuse has grown. 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. The trade is also international: Thousands of Iranian women and girls have been sold into sexual slavery abroad.

The head of Iran's Interpol bureau believes that the sex-slave trade is one of the most profitable activities in Iran today. This criminal trade is not conducted outside the knowledge and participation of the ruling clerics.

Persian Journal - Iran Latest News
Government officials themselves are involved in buying, selling and sexually abusing women and girls. Many of the girls come from impoverished rural areas. High unemployment -- 28 percent for youths from 15 to 29 years of age, and 43 percent for women from 15 to 20 years of age -- is a serious factor in driving restless youth to accept risky offers for work. Slave traders take advantage of any opportunity in which women and children are vulnerable. Following the recent earthquake in Bam, for example, orphaned girls have been kidnapped and taken to a known slave market in Tehran where Iranian and foreign traders meet.

Popular destinations for victims of the slave trade are the Arab countries in the Persian Gulf. According to the head of the Tehran provincial judiciary, traffickers target girls between 13 and 17 (and some reports of girls as young as 8 and 10) to send to Arab countries.

One ring was discovered after an 18-year-old girl escaped from a basement where a group of girls were held before being sent to Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. The number of Iranian women and girls who are deported from Persian Gulf countries indicates the magnitude of the trade. Upon their return to Iran, the Islamists blame the victims, and often physically punish and imprison them. The women are examined to determine if they have engaged in "immoral activity." Based on the findings, officials can ban them from leaving the country again.

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