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'I Will Not Be Silent': Woman Tells of Attempted Rape in Elevator

August 4, 2020
7 min read
Sima has shared video footage and pictures of her attacker with IranWire
Sima has shared video footage and pictures of her attacker with IranWire
The would-be rapist is known in the local community for similar offences, but has so far escaped criminal proceedings
The would-be rapist is known in the local community for similar offences, but has so far escaped criminal proceedings

In the Islamic Republic of Iran it is often impossible to prove an allegation of sexual harassment, rape or attempted rape. The dearth of legal protection or civil instutions’ support for victims means that many will choose to stay silent at the outset, while cultural taboos and victim-blaming make it all the harder to testify without fear. Even if victims of this type of violence want to pursue the case, weaknesses in Iran’s penal code and the absence of serious judicial desire to prosecute mean that many cases come to nothing.

In the face of all of these barriers, there is a blanket of silence around sexual violence in Iran. But there are also women who do not want to remain silent. One of them is Sima, an IranWire reader who has sent videos and documents detailing an alleged attempted rape by one of her neighbours in an elevator.

Sima is a pseudonym we are using to protect the woman’s identity. We hope the details of her case speak for themselves.


The camera shows the entrance of a building, and the elevator door. It is July 26, not long before noon.

A woman enters the elevator. A few seconds later, a man approaches the closed elevator door. It seems that he has manipulated its mechanism somehow because the. elevator returns to floor level, the door opens, and he is able to enter.

The next video is from the camera inside the elevator. The man, who has his face covered by a mask, stands next to the woman. The woman does not realize what is happening as the man covers the camera with tape. Everything goes black onscreen.

The next time the camera cuts in, the woman is alone in the elevator. She is unsticking the tape and seems to be in a mess. The time between the two parts of the video – that is, the amount of time the tape was covering the camera lens – is a little over two minutes.

According to Sima, what happened during this time was an attempted rape. Sima Sima is a 33-year-old working woman who lives alone in one of the building’s 20 flats. She has sent the videos, pictures, and documents related to her complaint to the local police station, and in the meantime has spoken to IranWire.

"I do not want to remain silent,” she says, over and over. “I want everyone to know. According to the neighbors and the security guards of the residential complex, who are mostly from the Air Force, this man has a history. But because no one has any documentation, everyone has remained silent. I do not want to be silent. He must be stopped."


How One Woman Escaped an Attempted Rape

What happened to Sima, in her telling, over the course of those two minutes?

"I entered the elevator. Suddenly the elevator went back down. A gentleman came in; he was coughing. I did not have a mask and turned my back to him.

“There was a hissing sound. I turned around and noticed that he had put a tape over the camera lens. When I asked him what he was doing, he pulled out a knife from the waistband of his pants, in a paper sheath. He attacked me, saying, 'It won't take more than a few minutes. I can’t wait any longer.’

“He put his hand over my mouth. I turned towards the elevator mirror, and saw myself, and the person behind me in the mirror."

When Sima saw the picture of herself and the abusive man in the elevator mirror, she says, she told herself: "Pull yourself together, otherwise you will not get out of here safely." She has a background in self-defense, so takes a deep breath – and in moments, a fight has broken out.

"I headbutted him in the face from behind. He was put on the back foot because he had glasses on. At the same time, he was smaller than me and hit the wall of the elevator. Our elevator is for four people. I got down on the floor and he came down with me. I started kicking. He put his hand on my mouth, and threatened me with the knife, saying: 'Be quiet. Don't scream.' I hit him with my bag and with everything I could. I thought I would be stabbed, but I would not give up."



Police Inaction Over Arcane Witnesses Rule

It has by now been widely reported that many incidences of sexual harassment, violence and rape are planned in advance by the perpetrators. This was clearly the case for Sima’s attacker. “He said that he has been watching me for a year,” she says, “from my former workplace to the present one. He kept repeating that he could wait no more and even with clothes on, he could...”

Sima shouted and resisted so vehemently that in the end, her would-be rapist gave up while they were both still trapped in the elevator. "We were arguing for a few minutes and he was repeating his words,” she said. “I beat him too. He pushed the button to go to the parking lot.

“He began to apologize. The elevator stopped at the parking lot. He went out and then pushed button five, for the fifth floor. He held onto the door from outside to make sure the elevator was moving away. After reaching the fifth floor, I went back down to the parking lot, but he was already gone."

As soon as Sima arrived back at her apartment, she called the police and also the building’s security guard. "We checked the cameras,” she says. “The guard said he is from around here and lives right in front of our block.

“According to the guards and the residents of the complex, he has a history of this behavior. But no one had proof and they did nothing about it. One person even said that he had stood naked in front of their window.

“I went to the police station and handed over my complaint. But they told me, ‘You need to prepare a local witness statement.' Everyone who had promised me support stepped back and said they had a wife and children and were afraid. The judiciary did not even look at the videos and said that I should bring four witnesses.

“There are videos. But how can I bring four witnesses in a four-person elevator?"

The would-be rapist has continued to call Sima over the past week. He has her home phone number and in the calls, which IranWire has heard, he tells Sima not to pursue the case and claims that he regrets his crime. But Sima still plans to take legal action.

"[Allegations of] sexual harassment and rape are usually silenced,” she says, “and this gives a safe margin to harassers. This person has done this before and no one confronted him. I do not want to be silent.

“The police did nothing for me. The lawyer also said that the process ‘takes time’. But this person has been watching me and I am still under psychological pressure from him. I’ll have to go to court myself, I’ll have to bring the photos and videos myself, I’ll have to explain it to everyone. This repetition in itself is double the pressure. I’ll say everything out loud, but many are silent."


Why Can't More Be Done?

Article 199 of Iran’s penal code states that two to four witnesses are needed to prove an allegation of sexual harassment or rape. This is one of the most significant and outdated obstacles to victims trying to see this type of violence prosecuted. How can one have a witness to crimes committed in elevators and private or enclosed spaces – the exact spaces where where rape and sexual harassment usually occur? Or in this case, when key parts of the altercation have been caught on camera, why in the meantime has no psychological support been offered to the victim?

IranWire attempted to contact the local police station in this case, but did not receive a response. But we hope that by allowing Sima to break her silence, this article will go some way to support the “safe margin” in which these repulsive criminals operate.


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