The Theocratic Hatred of Women Manifests in Murder
Unbelief Brief
May 6, 2024
In the last week, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Iran have seemed almost eager to outcompete one another in the egregiousness of their human rights violations.

The family of a gay man who had been working for Qatar Airways has publicized new information about the case the government is prosecuting against him. Manuel Guerrero Aviña, a “British-Mexican” man, was reportedly targeted by Qatari authorities posing as an interested man on Grindr. Manuel was subsequently arrested and charged with offenses related to drug possession. His family and human rights activists alike contend that he was targeted for his sexual orientation, denied medication for his HIV condition in custody, and pressured to reveal information about other gay men to the authorities during the 42 days he was imprisoned. He has been released pending trial, but without his passport, and his family reportedly wishes to see the UK government intervene to bring him home.

It is difficult to determine which hatred is stronger in Islamic theocracies: that against homosexuals or that against women. But authorities in Saudi Arabia and Iran have nevertheless proven even more draconian in two recent cases. Amnesty International reports that Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old Saudi women’s rights activist, has been sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment—and, sadly and predictably, it is for the crime of being the wrong kind of woman. For speaking against the male guardianship system and dressing immodestly (read: like any free woman), she was convicted for offenses of “terrorism.” Amnesty makes the point that this case “directly contradicts the authorities’ [recent] narrative of reform and women’s empowerment,” and we agree completely.

As has been a trend in recent years, though, Iran takes the prize for the most horrific brutality. As readers of this newsletter may already know, Nika Shakarami, a 16-year-old girl who had participated in the Woman Life Freedom protests in the wake of Iranian police forces’ murder of Masha Amini, has been confirmed dead. A new report from the BBC shows that she was sexually abused in custody and fought back, which in turn provoked the security forces’ anger and prompted her murder. The regime, of course, habitually lies about its own cruelty and punishes those who dare remind them of the truth. Now, reports the BBC, “two Iranian journalists who had commented on the report online said prosecutors had opened cases against them.”

Perhaps the best way to remember Nika, who shared the same unforgivable fate as Mahsa Amini at the hands of her own woman-hating government, is the act which prompted security forces to pursue and ultimately murder her: “On 20 September 2022, Nika was filmed at a protest in Tehran setting fire to her headscarf, while other protesters chanted "death to the dictator" - a reference to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

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