Afghan Child Brutally Raped and Murdered; Will the Cycle of Violence End?

(Warning: Graphic Content)

The disturbing news of Setayesh Ghoreishi, a 6 year-old Afghan girl is beginning to spread across Persian language media and human rights outlets. According to various reports, a 17 year-old teen from Varamin, Iran, allegedly brought the six year-old neighbor to his residence, raped, and stabbed her to death using a knife. It is further alleged that the perpetrator attempted to dissolve her body using acid in a bathtub. However when he failed to completely eliminate the victim’s body, he reportedly called another neighbor for assistance. Upon seeing the murder scene, the visiting neighbor reportedly involved his parents who immediately engaged local law enforcement. The alleged suspect was subsequently arrested and incarcerated. His name has not yet been identified.

It is confounding to even imagine premeditated intent to commit such gruesome acts, particularly against a child. These crimes are inexcusable and should be condemned by all observers and authorities and the perpetrator should be brought to justice.

Though it’s hard to make assumptions, it is important to examine the possible causal factors behind the violence and the societal context in which this crime took place.

In the United States, law enforcement investigating such crimes would likely examine the intent and consider the possibility of a hate crime based on the alleged perpetrator’s decision to target a particular victim.

Perpetrators of hate crimes are subjects to enhanced penalties under the law because they have selected their target based on bias against the victim’s race, ethnicity, gender, and other factor. It is hard to make assumptions but could it be that Setayesh Ghoreishi was targeted because she was an Afghan girl and not Persian? Could it be that in an atmosphere where Afghan minorities are deprived of rights and resources, a perception of the victim’s “ethnic inferiority” in the eyes of the alleged perpetrator serve as justification for the crime or the intensity of it?

The justice system under the Islamic Republic of Iran frequently uses public executions as a deterrent against crimes. Public executions are widely publicized and often attended by children. Bodies of those executed sometimes remain hanging on cranes for extended periods of times. These executions are photographed by official government media and “spectators.” Those who for various reasons do not attend public executions are still exposed to those images in the media and friends. Could it be that frequent exposure to such scenes is contributing to increased tendencies for violence and aggression in Iran?

Violence against women, child marriage, and persisting rules and regulations that disadvantaged women are frequently reported social problems. But like most social problems primary and secondary groups that are affected. Beyond the ramifications experienced by women, unfair treatment of women also impacts men and boys and shaping their attitudes and behaviors toward women and girls. Could it be that social and legal pressures on women combined with the government’s tolerance of marriage for little girls create a social atmosphere where girls are sexualized and the female life is perceived as less valuable? One wonders the fate of Ghoreishi, if she had survived the rape; would those in her circles and the ruling legal system stand behind her or would they blame and shame her?

The brutal crimes committed against Setayesh Ghoreishi are appalling and inexcusable. They should be vehemently condemned by all authorities and observers of the case. Nonetheless, such a painful event also should prompt a national moment of self-examination in Iran. Ideally it might spark serious consideration of the legal and social practices that might be contributing to a cycle of violence and even catalyze a process of reform.

Alas, this seems highly unlikely in an authoritarian theocracy whose religious leaders have institutionalized a system of self-serving cultural and legal practices that perpetuate their ethnic and religious superiority. Young Setayesh suffered doubly, not only a victim violated and murdered in a grotesque crime but a person whose life was devalued at birth simply because of her gender and ethnic identity.

In the wake of this heinous incident, let’s hope that some voices inside Iran will call for change. Let’s pray that there will be a public conversation and even a degree of self-criticism. If that would happen, perhaps we can save the next Setayesh.

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