July 28, 2002
Mullahs Soft On Crime?

Fred Pruitt of Rantburg links a sordid story of judicial corruption in Iran:

TEHRAN, July 28 (AFP) - An Iranian revolutionary court judge has been sentenced to 10 and a half years in jail for pimping and the illegal detention of a 17-year-old girl, court sources said Sunday.

The judge in the Tehran satellite town of Karaj was found guilty of having covered up for a brothel where 17 girls were detained, many of them as young as seven.

They said the judge, whom they identified only by his first name Hadi, had confined a 17-year-old who went missing several months ago before being found by her father in a brothel.

Hadi was also sentenced to 90 lashes of the whip and barred from any post in the judiciary, and will have to return a total of 625,000 dollars in bribes received from the brothel owners.

Seventeen others were convicted in the same case and handed lesser sentences, the sources said.

What struck me was the relative mildness of the punishment, which seems roughly in line with what he would have gotten in the U.S. for the same crime. The only obvious difference is that he would have escaped the 90 lashes, but would also quite likely have had to pay a substantial fine over and above returning the money. Given the age of the victims, many Americans would consider this guy a good candidate for stoning or hanging or being sewn in a sack and thrown off a cliff. Not that that would be allowed in the U.S., but it's surprising that country that stones adulterers and amputates the hands of common thieves would let this guy off with such a relatively light punishment.

How are we to explain this uncharacteristic (can I call it unIslamic?) leniency? I can think of a number of possibilities:

  1. Are the mullahs losing their nerve, and their will to punish evildoers? This seems unlikely. They may not trust the police to shoot protesters, but they seem to be perfectly willing to have them shot by imported thugs. In any case, this kind of leniency hardly seems likely to help them stay in power.
  2. Are the members of the ruling class protecting their own, as tends to happen in every country under every system of government? If so, are they doing so out of simple fellowship with the powerful, or because so many of them are also corrupt, too, or to keep the loyalty of the ruling classes in difficult times?
  3. Did the fact that the primary victims were all female tend to partially exonerate the criminal? There is no mention of compensation for the captive girls, or even for their fathers. I suppose that, willing or (like at least one 17-year-old) unwilling, they are all 'bad girls' now and can expect no consideration.

The three possibilities are not mutually exclusive.

Parenthetical Question: Is prostitution legal in Iran? If so, what kind of theocracy is that? If not, why is the bribe money being returned to the brothel owners? This shows commendable self-restraint by the state. Most likely the story is misleadingly ambiguous, and he actually 'returned' the money to the national treasury.

Final comment: I hope when the father found his daughter in the brothel, it was because he was looking for her, not looking for a good time. That would have made for quite an awkward recognition scene.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at July 28, 2002 07:14 PM

"Given the age of the victims" -- we might want to contemplate the differences in views of maturity there. It may well be that 16 or 15 or even younger is marriage age there--I'm not certain--so a 17 year-old girl may well be considered an adult there. As much as any female would be considered one, anyway. The "girls" may all in fact be of "adult" age.

Although the story does mention a 7-year-old....

My own guess is that in Iran, prostitution is a serious crime for prostitute owners and the prostitutes, but that there's a tendency to look away from it, as there is here. And to simply consider the girls to be ultimately at fault for the whole thing.

Posted by: Dean Esmay on July 29, 2002 05:59 AM