An amateur video that appears to show an Islamic cleric inappropriately touching a woman on a bus is causing outrage among Iranian Internet users. Our Observer, a young Iranian woman, says such behaviour is common and recounts her own story of being sexually harassed by a member of the clergy.
While it is unclear what is going on in the first minute of the video, below, it becomes apparent toward the end of it that an Islamic cleric is rubbing his fingers through his cloak on a woman standing next to him. The woman’s face is not visible, and it is unclear whether this attention is unwanted. According to the video’s description on YouTube, this scene was filmed on a bus in the northeastern city of Masshad; our Iranian Observers confirm that the people heard talking in the background with an accent from that region.
FRANCE 24 has blurred the cleric's face. The overlaid text, however, was added onto the original video by a Facebook group called "Iranian Leftists."
The original video has been deleted, but it has been reposted on YouTube, on social media networks and on Persian-language websites. The video has prompted many angry comments from Internet users, who accuse clerics of taking advantage of their position of authority, often referring to them as “mullahs,” which is often used as a derogatory term in Iran.

“A mullah called me to his office and told me that if I didn’t have sex with him, he would not allow me to pass his course”

Shila (not her real name), 26, is a university student.
In Iran, there are many scandals involving mullahs, who should be God’s men and exert strong self-control. [One example, in 2008, was the much-publicised scandal surrounding a married cleric who was caught on video committing adultery.] Instead, however, they are known as lecherous perverts, who do whatever they want and often take part in short-term marriages - sometimes for only an hour - which is basically prostitution but is accepted under Islamic law. [In Iran, Muslim clergy are allowed to engage in sexual activities within the confines of marriage]. They are also known to harass women in public, including in the subway or on busses, especially young girls who may not dare complain. And if they do complain, the police will of course side with the mullahs. That’s why young women do their best to avoid them.
When I was studying for my bachelor’s in Tehran, many courses were taught by mullahs. One of them called me to his office and told me that if I didn’t have sex with him, he would not allow me to pass his course. I said no, and he gave me a 9,50 out of 20 – just under the passing mark of 10. I went to his office again and said okay, sir, what do I need to do to pass? He proposed a short-term marriage during which we could have sex, which I refused. He then proposed another sex act, and so I tried to negotiate. Finally he accepted a kiss and touching me somewhere on my body in exchange for half a mark. He touched my hip in a rude manner, and I said I felt uncomfortable kissing in his office, and proposed we meet in my car or his car later. I left and never came back. About a month later he called me and said I had behaved sinfully. This made me very angry, so I threatened him, telling him my family was very protective of me. He never called me again, and gave me a passing mark. I heard many similar stories from other female students.
I believe that mullahs, many of whom come from poor families in rural areas, become sex-crazed when they enter religious schools during their adolescence. They have little contact with women, and all day long talk about Islamic rules regarding sex. So when they become mullahs, even though they’re allowed to marry, some of them abuse their newfound power to satisfy their cravings.