Author: Ershad Alijani

Videos reportedly catch ‘prayer-writing’ mullah sexually abusing three women

Three videos circulating on social networks in Afghanistan claim to show a “prayer-writing” mullah sexually assaulting three separate women. The videos were reportedly made three years ago in the north-central Faryab province, but appeared online the week of September 10. Local officials have identified the mullah and accused him of rape. If the charges are correct, these videos would be rare documentation of an often-alleged practice: rape committed by mullahs claiming to offer prayer-inspired healing to women. They are known as “taweez nevis” in Afghanistan: self-appointed mullahs who in return for money write prayers on paper that are supposed to serve as “charms” (taweez). Afghan families often send women to see them in case of marital problems such as infertility. The sessions often lead to abuse. The three videos sent to me by multiple sources in Afghanistan appear to show such abuse. They show the same man, with a long beard and white robes, alone with three different women, in each case lying on a mattress on the floor.   Screengrab from a video circulating …

No, Iran’s ex-president Ahmadinejad is not a shepherd

Since mid-August, a mysterious photo of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad leaning on a rustic walking stick has been widely shared on social media in Turkey – with captions saying he’s spending his retirement herding sheep in his village. It is not true: in fact Ahmadinejad is still in Tehran, still involved in politics, and facing multiple allegations of corruption. The photograph shows Ahmadinejad in a forested area, in a padded jacket, with a stout stick in his hands. The photo has been published by a Twitter account with 2.2 million followers, an Instagram page with 1.6 million followers, and dozens of Facebook pages with hundreds of thousands of followers between them. This Facebook page on August 14 published an undated photograph showing former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The caption in Turkish reads: “Ahmadinejad is herding sheep in his village now, not like our politicians taking money from the state after retirement.” What is false in this story? First off, Ahmadinejad does not live in a village; he lives in his house in the Narmak …

A giant sinkhole opens up in drought-hit Iran

A giant sinkhole about 60 metres deep has made a surprise appearance in western Iran. The sinkhole opened up on August 19 near the small village of Kerdabad, in the Kabudrahang county of the western province of Hamadan. It has terrified both locals and experts, who say this phenomenon shows that groundwater tables have been badly damaged. The images of this giant hole in the earth are even more chilling due to its location: the sinkhole is only one kilometre from a village with more than 2,000 residents, and only a few more kilometres from a solar power station, a thermal power plant and a major national highway. This video of a sinkhole near the village of Kerdabad in the Iranian province of Hamadan was circulating among Iranian users via the messaging app Telegram in August 2018. A shepherd who witnessed the pit’s creation described it to Iran’s state media: “It was about 3 pm and I was just 20 metres away from where the pit would open up. Suddenly I heard a strange, deep …