An Iranian pop concert by singers Jamshid and Mansour in Erbil last month turned to chaos after local men followed the women into the stadium and, taking advantage of the lack of security, assaulted them.
That is highly sorrowful and disappointing, not least because a potential source of income for the Kurdistan Region turned to havoc. I am not writing to say I am sorry we lost potential tourists and gained a bad reputation. I am writing to discuss the roots of such behavior, which can be found in our everyday lives.
Needless to mention that, anywhere in the world when a large crowd gathers, a competent and organized security force is required to ensure safety. What happened in Kurdistan could have happened anywhere. It always starts with a few opportunists, and when no powerful force interferes to stop and punish the offenders, a larger group turns abusive.
But are there other ways of referring to the group which started the assault? Let’s imagine that among these “bad” boys who were the attackers, there were the very decent and nice boys of a family or neighborhood. Did the men even consider that the way they treated those women was wrong, immoral, ugly and sinful (if they are religious)? In addition to the lack of security, what else motivated the offenders?
Sexual assault is not always a matter of lust. Rapists enjoy the sense of power and control they get at the moment they find a vulnerable prey.
Sexual assault is not always a matter of lust. Rapists enjoy the sense of power and control they get at the moment they find a vulnerable prey. But, these assaults happened in public, so lust could not be a factor. The attack could also have been motivated by revenge: This sometimes happens when men are madly attracted to women who not only do not return the attraction, but instead humiliate them. So, retaliation and a show of power can also be elements that encouraged the shameful episode.
Who is supposed to teach young Kurds about adult relationships? In a culture where parents are too embarrassed to talk about sex, where the educational system is void of training and religious doctrines only refer to sex as a sinister and ugly phenomenon, not as a natural human drive that guarantees both survival and happiness, where should the young turn for education or information?
Nowadays, because of the Internet, pornography is more accessible than ever before to younger and younger kids than any time in history. When we neglect to have essential conversations regarding sex with our younger generation, pornography becomes the teacher. The problem with this industry is that it presents women only as one type. Because pornography is funded by men, directed by men and targeted at men, women are displayed only as men-pleasers, devoid of dignity, confidence or other human traits.
In opposition to the degradingly sexualized women, our culture presents and praises the innocently asexual beings: mothers, sisters and daughters. The mother-figures are so excessively and absurdly desexualized, as if all mothers are the Virgin Mary and they managed to have babies by some magical way other than intercourse.
This dichotomy places women into only two categories: asexual or prostitute. There is no midway, no space for a young healthy woman to acceptably express her sexuality and not be looked down upon. In this binary thinking, therefore, the young men whose only outlet to adult relationships is pornography, seeing attractive, happy, well-dressed and dancing women only reminds them of one group of women, who only deserve to be treated in one way.
This mentality is consciously or unconsciously promoted by the media. News media that reported the concert upheaval also mentioned that some of the women at the concert were “wearing revealing dresses and dancing.” They mentioned this as if it justified the blatantly savage behavior.
This dichotomy places women into only two categories: asexual or prostitute. There is no midway, no space for a young healthy woman to acceptably express her sexuality and not be looked down upon.
These women were possibly celebrating their temporary holiday from a theocratic regime which has suppressed their desire for free dress and dance. Such strict restrictions inevitably create extreme reactions: Some of the women might have been wearing heavy make-up or were very dressed up. Even if that was the case, did these women still deserve being assaulted?
If they were not placed in a strictly patriarchal culture that perceives women more as “objects of desire” than human beings with dignity, would the event have turned out this way? How is that in other parts of the world women can walk in a bikini on the seaside, without being the objects of gawking men.
Had those young men understood that the women at the concert were only enjoying themselves and not asking for invasion, had they understood that those attractive creatures were humans who wished to be respected and left alone, had they learned that pornography is not real and no women -- not even victims of prostitution -- wish to be assaulted, had they learned how to respect and manage their sex drives and had they learned how their behavior damages and scars these women for a long time, this shameful event would not have happened.