The journalists who reported a case of sexual abuse of several minors at a football school in northeastern Iran have been banned from work for six months.
The chief prosecutor of Iran's Khorasan Razavi province, Mohammad-Hossein Doroudi, still refrains from naming the club but according to reports the scandal took place at a sports school in the religious city of Mashhad called “Namazgozaran,” literally meaning the ones who pray. The number of arrested whistleblowers is more than the suspects in the case. He did not mention whether or when a court session took place for the case.
The two journalists who broke the news were banned from work for six months, which is exactly the sentence given to the coach, who is accused by the families of the boys of sexually abusing their children and – according to unconfirmed reports – filming them. Another journalist and an official of the city’s Sports and Youth Organization were also given sentences over the case.
The prosecutor has not elaborated on the case and the sentences, as is the norm in the Islamic Republic when the scandal is very big or when the accused are connected to high-ranking officials.
The prosecutor, who had earlier warned the families not to speak to the media, said, "According to the investigation, no document and proof of physical assault by the coach at this football school has been presented to the judicial system and nothing has been proven." But he did not explain why the caich was suspended for six months.
In January, Sports Minister Hamid Sadjadi said he had ordered an investigation following reports of sexual abuse. According to the Iranian official news agency, IRNA, a former media manager for the Shahr Khodro football team said on social media in January that the parents of 15 trainees from had filed a complaint against the club and coaches for sexual assault on their children.
The incident made it to the media when Shahrara daily, which is affiliated to Mashhad municipality, reported that “families of the children had gathered in front of the headquarters of the provincial football organization to protest this tragedy.” Since there was no follow-up by the authorities, the families were forced to publicize the case through the media, the daily added.
During a press conference late in January, Judiciary Spokesman Masoud Setayeshi, who was asked about the case, said, "We are investigating what is the motive for publishing such news."
Sexual abuse has made football schools a serious threat for children and teenagers. Reports say even some mothers of the children receive sexual offers from the coaches and officials of these schools.
Reza Torabian, a former football player, had earlier said that “Some officials of football schools ask the single moms to have sex in return for letting their kids play in famous teams.”
Sexual abuse of minors in football schools and other institutions is usually not reported by officials, but in the last two decades, Iranian media have published numerous reports of such cases.
Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei and Quran reciter Saeed Tooai
One of the cases that was internationally covered was the case of Supreme Leader’s "favorite Quran reciter" Saeed Toosi, who was accused of "sexually abusing underage trainees." In October 2016, reports revealed that Toosi sexually abused 19 of his prepubescent Quran students over the past years.
The Islamic Republic authorities usually prefer to detain journalists who spill the beans in scandalous cases, as they did in the case of Mahsa Amini’s death in hijab police custody, an event that triggered the ongoing antiregime protests. The current wave of rallies has been described as the boldest challenge against the clerical regime so far. In a new book, two Iranian academics argue that Iranians have lost trust in the regime, which is perceived as inefficient and mired in discriminatory behavior.