Several Iranian journalists have been arrested after their organization covered a series of acid attacks against women in Iran’s Isfahan Province, Al-Monitor reports via BBC Persian. Four journalists from the Islamic Students’ News Agency and a photographer, also affiliated with ISNA, were detained. Two of the journalists have been released, but the others reportedly remain in custody.*
The attacks—which were mostly committed against women who were not fully covered by their hijabs—have triggered rallies in the streets of Isfahan and Tehran and calls for action across social media. Iranian authorities arrested several suspects last week in connection with the incidents, but say they don’t have enough evidence to hold them; four have already been released.
Legislation currently being considered in Iran’s parliament would afford greater protection for vigilantes trying to enforce Islamic legal norms, including those regulating women’s dress. From the Los Angeles Times:
Iranian liberals … believe that the government helped set the stage for attacks against those deemed immodest in some way by enacting a parliamentary measure providing protection to citizens who act on their own to help enforce the country’s strict social mores.
At least eight or nine such attacks – which are generally carried out by assailants on motorbikes who fling acid into their victims’ faces – have occurred in recent weeks, with some Isfahan residents saying they suspect the number is higher.
The parliamentary legislation in question has been slowed down by moderates aligned with President Hassan Rouhani, who has denounced the measure, stating that upholding Islamic law is the duty of all citizens, not just a select group. The acid attacks themselves have been denounced by authorities on both sides of the aisle, and Iran’s interior minister has promised to bolster security in Isfahan. The state-run Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Friday prayer leader Mohammad Taghi Rahbar—who is described by Reuters as a “hardliner”—as saying the attacks have no religious or legal justification: “No matter whatever excuse is given, even if a woman comes out in the worst possible form, this type of action is not justified. No one has the right to do this type of thing,” he said.
Correction, Oct. 28, 2014: This post originally stated that the journalists arrested had covered acid attacks against Iranian women. While some of them had covered the subject and their organization as a whole had been criticized by conservatives, it’s not known if all of those who were detained covered the attacks.