Recent acid attacks on women in the central Iranian city of Isfahan have apparently begun to upset Iranian authorities, but as much for the media coverage they are prompting as for the real-life effects.
Political leaders have accused both the culprits and those spreading "rumors" of the attacks of being foreign agents.
Acid attacks have been an occasional problem in the past. But several incidents that have emerged over the past few weeks in Isfahan have caused a stir. Immediate suspicions were directed at religious zealots, believed to have carried out the attacks against women who were allegedly badly veiled or driving cars.
The failure to arrest anyone usually feeds public suspicions that such zealots enjoy some level of protection from government authorities. There were nevertheless warnings in the media not to echo "hostile" reports or "point the finger" at a particular group, the BBC-Farsi reported on Oct. 28, citing Iranian media.
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A view of central Isfahan. Photo: Arad Mojtahedi
Isfahan's provincial governor was quoted as saying that no attacks were reported in the provincial capital after Oct. 15, so "all the news being reported in this respect is absolutely inaccurate," before warning the public not to gather in protest.
An Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei told the press in Isfahan on Tuesday that the assailants would receive "maximum penalties," but stressed that authorities "will respond to social networks threatening morals and security, like Viber and Whatsapp, which disrupt people's peace of mind with rumors."
He blamed "provocations" for having impeded investigations and prevented the identification of culprits so far, the conservative daily Kayhan reported.
— Ahmad Shayegan