Spaces of Terror and Women's Activism for Realization of Right to the City: The Case of Serial Acid Attacks in Isfahan, Iran

Thursday, 14 July 2016: 14:45
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Ladan RAHBARI, PhD in sociology, Iran
In autumn 2014 in the city of Isfahan, a serial acid attack aimed at female victims who were driving cars, took place in urban public spaces. The officially confirmed number of victims was four while the general public firmly believes that the perpetrations were far more numerous. The violence, which had an obvious sexual dimension, raised public fear among inhabitants of Isfahan as well as other big cities. As perpetrators have not been brought to justice and the underlying scope of their action has not been clearly identified, collective narratives are created among different groups of people based on their socio-political status. Acid attacks on women for reasons of hatred, vengeance, or chastisement have been mostly taking place for personal motives in Iran. These serial attacks however, were widely perceived to be systematically organized. In the weeks following the attacks, Isfahan's female inhabitants' urban practices were disrupted and the public spaces, once partially safe for women, turned in to spaces of terror limiting women's movement and daily life practices. As a result women started taking collective initiatives for providing secure spaces. These events also led to a collective reaction, which as I will suggest, was one of the rare urban protests in Iranian history to claim women's right to the space. This paper has adopted qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews and focus group discussions to discuss women's perception and reaction after the attacks. Interviewees selected by snowball sampling technique were women who participated in a wave of activism to publicly condemn the attacks. Appropriation of the public space and participation in the collective appeal for the interpellation of the authorities responsible for public security by Isfahan inhabitants indicated the rising awareness of the right to the city as a human right as suggested by Henry Lefebvre.