The Economist: A saga of murder that highlights the vulnerability of Iran’s urban poorest. A young man develops a taste for raping and killing people, mostly small boys, and hiding their corpses in the wasteland of the open-air brick factories that he inhabits. The police are indifferent to the pleas of distraught parents, who are mostly rural migrants and Afghan refugees; by the time the murderer is brought to book, the death toll stands at 20. The Economist
A saga of murder that highlights the vulnerability of Iran’s urban poorest
PAKDASHT – A YOUNG man develops a taste for raping and killing people, mostly small boys, and hiding their corpses in the wasteland of the open-air brick factories that he inhabits. The police are indifferent to the pleas of distraught parents, who are mostly rural migrants and Afghan refugees; by the time the murderer is brought to book, the death toll stands at 20. As an emblem of social decay and official ineptitude, this tale from the ribbon developments near Pakdasht, on Tehran’s insalubrious southern fringe, takes some beating.
Embarrassed by the media’s attention, the authorities are trying to make amends. Negligent policemen have been referred to the courts. A government report concedes that inquiries that could have halted the murders were not made. Last week, Muhammad Bijeh, the crimes’ unrepentant perpetrator, was sentenced to hang. Iran’s top policeman, Muhammad Baqer Ghalibaf, pledges to absorb the appropriate lessons.
The learning curve will be steep. Going missing is not a crime, is how the (now-sacked) local police chief justified his apparent indifference to the spate of disappearances. After his ten-year-old son failed to return home last winter, says Ghollam-Reza Amini, no fewer than three local police stations disclaimed jurisdiction over the area where the boy had been playing. A few weeksand two murderslater, Mr Bijeh was arrested. He was subsequently freed, and committed seven more murders.
We are poor illiterates, says one of Mr Amini’s neighbours, trying to explain the official unconcern. No one cares about us. Mr Ghalibaf was at pains to correct this impression when he visited Pakdasht recently; he lavished praise on the 450 local boys who went to their deaths in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and gave warning against imagining that there can be security in a society that does not possess the minimum needed for living.
The semi-slums around Pakdasht are such a society, and Mr Bijeh’s charge sheet records the human consequences of Iran’s two-decade-long wave of rural-urban migration. His accomplice, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison, is a drug addict, as was one of the adult victims. The only woman killed by Mr Bijeh seems to have been a prostitute. Another victim was a child labourer. Child or adult, Iranian or Afghan, all were poor.
All in all, Pakdasht people are sceptical of the concern Mr Ghalibaf expressed for the downtrodden during his visit. The Islamic Republic was founded on concern for the poor and economically exploited, and it is they, in Pakdasht at least, who feel most let down.
Pakdasht’s Afghans feel especially aggrieved. Though neither defendant was Afghan, Mr Ghalibaf has pointedly lamented the presence in Iran of uncontrolled numbers of foreign citizens. His sentiments were presumably shared by the duty officer to whom one Afghan reported his son’s disappearance. Well, that’s one less of you, the officer is said to have replied. Now, get out.