In a cabinet meeting on October 26, 2014, President Rouhani said, “The government will investigate these events [referring to the acid attacks] with all its capacity so that justice can be done with regards to the perpetrator[s] and so that [they] receive maximum punishment.” Yet months after these attacks, no perpetrators have been charged, despite extensive eyewitness details of accounts initially reported in the Iranian press. Moreover, Parliamentary legislation continues to move forward, and official pronouncements continue to be made at the highest level of state and among the clerical establishment, that are laying the groundwork for further attacks on women. The call for extra-judicial enforcement of state-mandated ultraconservative notions of female dress and behavior puts every woman in Iran at risk of violent assaults.
This is not only an egregious violation of Iranian and international law, it is a direct threat to the lives of Iranian women. The Rouhani Administration must use all its powers and the bully pulpit to establish the rule of law in Iran. This means exhorting the Judiciary to pursue the perpetrators of these acid attacks, so that any future assailants know they will be met with the full force of the law. It means explicitly stating that vigilante justice, where citizens of any stripe can take it upon themselves to punish female “violators” is specifically forbidden under Iranian law—and will be punished. And it means immediately withdrawing legislation that mandates Basij enforcement of hijab or any other marker of female “virtue.” For its part, the international community must also make clear to the Islamic Republic that if it is to achieve the full international rehabilitation and reintegration it seeks, these violations of the rights and safety of Iranian women must be immediately stopped.