The controversy surrounding the death of a young woman who had filed sexual assault charges against an Iranian MP has forced the Iranian parliament to respond.
Zahra Navidpour, took her case to the judicial system in Iran and filled sexual assault charges against her MP from the city of Malekan, Salman Khodadadi.
The alleged incident took place four years ago when Navidpour was residing in Malekan, a small city in northwest Iran and visited her MP, Salman Khodadadi looking for a job. According to Navidpour, Khodadadi asked her to visit his office in Tehran and raped Navidpour in that office.
On 6th of January, Akbar Alami, a former MP in Iran announced the sudden death of Zahra Navidpour at Farabi Hospital in Malekan; she was 28 years old.
Later on, the Malekan prosecutor’s office announced that Navidpour’s body was found without any sign of life at her mother’s house in Malekan and that the cause of death was ruled as suicide. It is not clear if an autopsy has been conducted.
Malekan prosecutor’s office had initially announced that the body will be sent to the Coroner’s Office for further examination. The body was buried and the findings of any autopsy, if conducted, were not released to the media.
Navidpour, disappointed at the Iranian judicial system, took her case to the media. In summer 2018, Navidpour provided evidence she had gathered against Khodadadi including audio files of conversations the two have had about the alleged rape to Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA). In these audio files, the conversations are in Turkish and a man first offers compensation to Navidpour but then goes on to threaten her with bodily harm and tells her that if she tells anyone, he will “take out her eyeballs” (the audio files could not be independently verified by Zamaneh).
The controversy surrounding the death of Zahra Navidpour has reached the Islamic Consultative Assembly. After social media outrage about the alleged rape and the fact that Salman Khodadadi is still serving as an MP without being held accountable, Alireza Salimi, a member of the board of supervisors on the behavior of MPs in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, announced that they have not received a complaint against Khodadadi.
Salimi asked the complainants against the Malekan representative to provide the board of supervisors on the behavior of MPs with relevant evidence about the alleged rape for further examination.
Zahra Navidpour had previously taken her case to the Parliament. In the audio and video files that remain of her she says that after filling the case with the court in 2018, she also filed a formal complaint against Khodadadi in the security department of the Iranian parliament.
Navidpour’s case is not the only accusation of sexual assault brought against Salman Khodadadi, an MP for over twenty years and a veteran of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) who has had close ties with the intelligence community in Iran and has held positions in the Ministry of Intelligence.
When Salman Khodadadi was serving in the seventh parliament (2004-2008), he was accused of sexually assaulting his secretary and another woman. He was taken into custody not on rape or sexual assault charges but on charges of “moral corruption and illegitimate relations” which are often charges brought against those who have sexual relations outside of marriage. The judge presiding on the investigation was famous of his own corruptions. The judge, Saeed Mortazavi, later on, released Khodadadi on bail. The details of the case were never publicized and the outcome and the rulings are also not clear.
In 2012, the Guardian Council did not approve Salman Khodadadi’s credentials to run for the parliamentary election and so he did not serve in the ninth Parliament. He was back again in the tenth parliament when the alleged rape of Zahra Navidpour took place.