A Story Of Iran’s Broken Justice System

My grandparents and I were out; leaving our apartment empty for several hours. Something was unusual upon returning: the front door wouldn’t open. Our neighbors tried to help, but we had no luck, and ended up staying the night at my aunts’ house.

My grandpa stood in the doorway of our building as I returned from school the next day.

“We were robbed”, he said with frustration in his voice.

My heart sank. My photos, a laptop, camera, headphones, money, everything was there.

We walked into our apartment and hypothesized the events from the previous night. The thieves had probably come in through the kitchen window, from a building under construction next door. They locked the front door from inside, which is why we were unable to get in.

The aforementioned laptop and many other things were missing; left behind was a camera, and backup hard drive. I feel as if a guardian angel was looking over me, all of my photos from the past 3 years where backed up on that drive.

Later that day the police arrived. A young man salvaged fingerprints from our apartment and gave us a case number. In order to continue the investigation, we return to the police station and ask about our file. Iran is unlike the United States; instead of the police taking over once a crime has occurred, the victim of a crime has to micromanage the investigation. As if being the victim of a crime isn’t bad enough, we have to spend every other day going back and forth.

My grandpa and I went to the Kalantary. After waiting in a long line, I wondered if there is a lot of crime in Tehran, or if the Kalantary is mismanaged, or perhaps a combination of both.

Once the policeman saw our file, he asked my grandpa who he suspects of having committed the robbery.

In my head: He is asking my grandpa? Isn’t that their job?

My grandpa’s response: “The construction workers next door.” My grandpa didn’t know their names; instead he gave Kareem’s name. The watchman of our building, Kareem works construction next door as well, to earn extra cash.

A few days later, the police returned to talk with the watchman of our building, and the building next door. The officer said they both have 48 hours to show up at the police station before they would be arrested, and deported to Afghanistan. My grandpa talked to the police, and according to them, they would both be beaten until they figured out what happened.

This isn’t right; these men are both (presumably) innocent. Our watchman is a good man with a pregnant wife. We can’t have him beaten based on suspicion.

After learning this, my grandpa went to the police station and gave Rezayat, or forgiveness. That was it, the robbers were legally untouchable. We formally forgave them, meaning they could never be prosecuted for their crimes. We were robbed; worse was being jerked around by a useless police force. Being stolen from wasn’t even bad compared to the thieves never being brought to justice.

That is Iran’s legal system. If someone commits a murder, they are either forgiven, or hung. There is no in-between. Iranian law doesn’t have “15 years in prison”. The idea of “legally forgiving” a criminal creates an opportunity for wrongdoers to pester and intimidate the victims of a crime until they are forgiven. Furthermore, placing the burden of an investigation on a shaken victim will bear no results.

This backward system needs to end. If Iran’s astronomical crime rate is to come down, the crime-fighting system needs reform from the ground up.

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