August 18, 2003


When the drought ended and the rains came, Saeed Hanaei believed that it was a sign from God that his killing spree had divine approval. “I realised God looked favourably on me. That he had taken notice of my work,” Hanaei said. With 12 prostitutes already dead by his hands, Hanaei carried on his “work” and strangled at least four more women after luring them to his house in the Iranian city of Mashhad. . . .

The case provoked a debate between reformers who condemned the authorities for failing to catch him earlier and some conservatives who shared the killer’s disgust with a rise in prostitution.

“Who is to be judged?” wrote the conservative newspaper Jomhuri Islami. “Those who look to eradicate the sickness or those who stand at the root of the corruption?” Such sentiments are expressed by the killer’s merchant friends at the Mashhad bazaar, one of whom says with a laugh: “He did the right thing. He should have continued.”

Don’t expect me to shed a tear for these guys if they wind up hanging from lampposts. Any more than I am for this guy.

UPDATE: I’m reminded of this story from Paris. Is there a pattern here?

ANOTHER UPDATE: A couple of readers point out that at least this is “controversial” in Iran, while in most Arab countries it wouldn’t be.

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