Systemic Cruelty to Animals: Another Entry in the Khomeiniist Regime’s Catalogue of Abuses

By Banafsheh Zand


A shocking video showing the burnt bodies of about 300 stray dogs was posted to Twitter on Monday, November 5th by animal rights activists in Ahwaz.


This brutal act on the part of the municipal authorities was not an isolated incident, but part and parcel of how the regime of Ayatollahs treats animals in Iran. The abuse of not only stray cats and dogs but pets and their owners has been another of the ongoing battles between the Iranian people and Tehran’s doctrinaire authorities.

An April 2015 video of municipal authorities in Shiraz cruelly killing dogs by injecting them with acid sparked outrage and mass protests.

Agents of the Khomeiniist regime injecting innocent dogs with acid.

According to World Animal Protection Index, Iran is ranked at the lowest level, on a scale from A to G, for animal rights laws and protections. Meanwhile, the Voiceless Animal Protection Institute considers it the fourth worst country in the world for animals. There are no laws whatsoever against animal abuse and the leaders of the country actively encourage their eradication in the name of their tenets.

The Islamic definitions of haram (forbidden by Islamic law) and najes (unclean) predicate Tehran’s treatment of animals. Dogs, in particular are one of the nine main najes beings. A hadith (oral tradition about the life of Mohammad) relates that the founder of Islam ordered dogs to be killed because their “uncleanness” prevented his meeting with the Archangel Gabriel.

These attitudes have been spread by the regime amongst the population over the past forty years to the point where religious fanatics have attacked those walking dogs on the street. In one instance, religious students assaulted a pregnant woman for dog walking.

Killing dogs is even displayed and encouraged in school textbooks for children.

In 2010, Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi issued a fatwa banning dog ownership, stating that “Friendship with dogs is a blind imitation of the West, there are lots of people in the West who love their dogs more than their wives and children….We have lots of narrations in Islam that say dogs are unclean.”

Ali (Abtin) Tabarzadi

In 2014, representatives to the Majles (the Islamic Parliament) proposed a bill criminalizing dog ownership and dog walking, recommending heavy fines and 74 lashes as punishment for breaking such a law. Shortly after, Ali (Abtin) Tabarzadi, son of imprisoned democracy activist Heshmat Tabarzadi, created a social media campaign to protest the savage bill and planned to hold public protests against it, but he was arrested and detained for several days in December 2014.

At the same time, the Ministry of the Interior began urging municipalities to begin eliminating their district’s stray dog populations. It was estimated that around one million dogs would be killed. In December  2014, the city of Kelardasht began killing their stray dogs and cats. In January 2015, the Northern city of Rasht began doing the same. By February, Bamdad’eh Jonoob newspaper (in an article since scrubbed from their website) reported that the city of Bushehr was offering individuals cash rewards for killing dogs.

In 2016, the police launched a crackdown on dog ownership, forcibly entering homes, seizing, and then killing dogs.

Protests erupted after videos of these actions were shared on social media.

In response to the demonstrations, Reformist members of the Majles sponsored a bill against animal cruelty in 2017, though it has yet to be approved. In the meantime, the killings continue, as documented on social media.  

Within this atmosphere of state-launched violence, it is not surprising that those who wish to hurt animals feel as if they are free to do as they please. According to animal rights activists, vivisections and abnormally harsh treatment of animals occur routinely in Iranian schools and laboratories.

This summer, gruesome images were shared over Telegram of puppies who had been brutally beaten and killed in Bushehr. Dog fighting has also become a popular underground sport. In 2014 a betting ring outside the great poet Ferdowsi’s tomb in Toos where fights were held was discovered and another, was exposed in Zanjan, in 2016. Although these matches are illegal, they are only so because of the gambling (which is banned by the Qo’ran) involved, not because of the harm done to the dogs.

Reports of animal abuse, incompetence, and corruption have also been leveled against the Ministry of Environment, whose agents on multiple occasions have killed bears, leopards, and deer, some of Iran’s most endangered animal species that they were supposed to be protecting. A group of forest rangers who killed a Syrian brown bear covered it up for nine months, while they pocketed the funds being sent to care for the animal.

The regime also has a history of making strange accusations concerning animals. In 2007, the police claimed to have “arrested” squirrels for being western spies. In 2008, the same thing was said about pigeons. In February of this year, lizards were said to be spying on Tehran’s nuclear program by “attracting atomic waves.”

Animal cruelty was alien to Iranian culture and history. Dogs were highly valued in pre-Islamic Iran. When Zoroastrianism was Iran’s central religion, dogs were said to scare away demons, and their close society with humans was encouraged. Iranians’ love of dogs however, has persisted despite Islamic precepts. Among others, the Pahlavi imperial family were known for their love for animals. 

This too has appeared in much of Iranian arts and culture. In the 1940s, the venerated modernist writer Sadegh Hedayat penned a heartrending short story excoriating Islamic traditionalists’ abuse of dogs.

Screenshot of Jafar Panahi and his pet Iguana in his 2011 documentary “This is not a film”

In 2011, Iranian Director Jafar Panahi made “This Is Not a Film.”   Panahi, who had been sentenced to six-years in prison by the Islamic judiciary, was released but confined to house arrest while appealing the charges against him. Banned from making his films, This, is a personal-log documentary which paints the day-to-day existence of the film director in his apartment. This subtle yet highly engaging snapshot of the restrictions imposed upon Iranians, stars Panahi’s beloved pet IGGY , the large iguana & Mickey, the neighbor’s Dachshund, who are forced to stay inside for fear of being impounded by the regime’s zealous guards.

Sholeh Raoufi with the cats at her privately owned shelter, which was later burnt down to the ground by Khomeiniist regime agents.

Today, individual Iranians are establishing animal shelters, at their own expense, to give homes to and protect stray animals that would otherwise be killed by the police. These shelter managers are taking great risks, as fanatics have been known to set the buildings on fire and kill the animals living inside. In August 2015, Sholeh Raoufi lost her life when arsonists incinerated her along with 200 cats she housed.

Sholeh Raoufi’s privately owned animal shelter, before and after Khomeiniist regime agents set fire to it.

Psychologists have shown that there is a relationship between cruelty to animals and psychopathy. Experts on criminal profiling regard animal abuse as a warning sign of potential violent behavior towards humans. The mullahs and their enforcers would seem to be prime examples of this, as their sadism towards whatever they have power over has no boundaries.

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