Silence accomplices and sexual harassment

Recently, result of a study published about the sexual harassment against the women journalists in Iran. The study has conducted by “Asr-e-Ertebatat” monthly magazine.

According to this study, 90 per cent of Iranian woman journalists experienced sexual harassment at least once during their couriers. Some experienced physical harassment and other verbal abuses.

This was shocking news in Iran. Many people had a hard time to believe that in a society which considers itself ethical and religious, such a high number of sexual harassment happened every day.

But it wasn’t surprising for anybody which is observing Iranian society up-close.

In recent decades Iran is facing an ethical crisis in society.

By Mihai Surdu on Unsplash

In 2009, Mir Hossein Mousavi, a presidential candidate who was challenging incumbent president Ahmadinejad, raised this crisis in the public sphere:

“I believe that our society is facing many challenges. But our existential crisis is not economical neither political, but it is diminishing morality in the society.” He said in his campaign.

Mousavi lost that election – which many people considering it fixed up and full of fraud. He became the leader of the Green Movement of Iran, and since 2011 he alongside Dr Rahnavard, his wife, and Mehdi Karoubi (another presidential candidate) are in the house arrest.

When the result of this research published, some people argued it is not accurate.

In a way, they are right. In this research sample size is just 59 persons. At the same time, the number of active Iranian female journalists is estimated about a few thousand. There is no doubt that this study could be a step to build upon that. But for those of us who have the experience of working in a newsroom in Iran, this result doesn’t seem off at all. It fits with our experience and stories and whisperers that we all have heard.

After the result came out, many Iranian female journalists who are working or previously were operating in Iranian media take to twitter to share their experiences about this issue. Some of them took a lot of courage to share their experiences and reading their accounts was chilling.

Media, Power Structure and Support of abuser

In the modern world, media is among the institutions which pose a lot of potentials to let such behaviors grow inside it. During the last few years and me-too movement, people talked a lot about the reason for this phenomenon.

One reason is the power structure of newsroom and media which are constructed by men and tend to support their behavior. Lack of satisfying supervisions and competitive atmosphere all parameters that predators men could misuse them to hares women.

This is not exclusive to the media. Any institute which is constructed based on a system of power that people with higher power and rank faced less supervision and scrutiny has the potential to become a place to let these kinds of behavior grows.

Another example is academic institutions.

There are already lots of stories about abuses in a scientific and academic institution in all around the world.

Based on my observation and interviews with scientist and students in Iran, I firmly believe that the situation in Iranian academic space is much worse.

Many people which I have talked to them, only spoke off the record because they were worried about their reputation and job and reaction of society.

These harassment initiated by different groups. Male colleagues, editors and admins and also sources. In each case, reporting these events and standing against them have consequences for the reporter. They can lose their jobs, sources and even get blamed by society.

Maybe that is why in most cases – as mentioned in this report – editors and officials ask their reporters to resolve the issue peacefully. Which means to turn a blind eye on the incident. Or at best they ask journalists who were abused to go through a series of training against abuse. In other words, the best we can do is ask the person who experienced the abuse to do more and defend herself alone.

While these kinds of behaviors are happening all around the world, but there are some elements in Iran which make the story worse. One of this problem is the lack of active HR supervisions. Usually, in these cases, even if you want to report a story, you have to report to your editor, and the HR system doesn’t deal with these kinds of acquisitions actively.

Lack of legal support and independent advisory groups for people who suffered theses harassment are other problems.

Silent partners of harassers

No need to say that all the men in the world and media are not harassers. They mostly neutral and silent. But the problem is in this story there is no silent and indifferent parties. You are either with people who suffered from these behaviors or part of the problem.

In the last few weeks, I was reading the tweets from my former colleagues. They have talked about their experiences, and those stories gave me nightmares. I always have tried to be a doesn’t person. But that was not enough. When I was reading these horrible stories, I could remember the faces and people. Those who were the abusers were in front of my eyes. I had worked with them. I am asking myself how many times I had brought the feature pages of the newspaper to my editor. At the same time, he was just finishing some harassment against my female colleagues? Why didn’t I see it?

Why couldn’t I be more vigilant? Why did I fail to let my female colleagues know that they have an ally? That I know, something is wrong, and I am ready to do whatever they want to help them and support them?

What did make me blind to these accidents? Why didn’t I realize those stories and those whispers could actually happen in front of my eye?

I am afraid that indirectly I was part of the problem too. I shouldn’t be so naïve. I shouldn’t be so blind and maybe, just maybe then I could help to stop one of these events.

It never supposed to be the people who were suffering should be alone. It was and still is the job of all of us to help to make a correction. To stop this poisonous atmosphere and let our fellow earthlings and in this case, our female colleagues and friends know that they are not alone.

Leave a Reply