Former Iranian intelligence minister Heidar Moslehi blamed foreign intelligence agencies for a recent string of acid attacks against women in the Iranian city of Isfahan, the Fars news agency reported Thursday.
Moslehi told the government-affiliated news service that “foreign agents” were responsible for the attacks in Isfahan, where at least eight women have been doused with acid by unknown attackers riding motorcycles.
The unprovoked attacks have left victims badly burned, disfigured and blind.
The former minister said that he believed the attacks were orchestrated by foreigners in an attempt to defeat a controversial bill in Iran’s parliament that would legalize the activities of vigilantes who patrol the streets and punish people for un-Islamic behavior.
“Unfortunately, when the law for ‘enjoining good and forbidding wrong’ was taken to parliament, we witnessed an event such as acid attacks and with precision, it came out in the media of the enemy,” the former minister said, according to al-Monitor’s translation of the October 30 Fars report.
“The intelligence services of the UK are behind the conspiracy,” he added.
“Enjoining the good and forbidding wrong,” refers to an Islamic doctrine mentioned in the Quran that teaches followers to embrace what is good and oppose injustice.
Although Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has condemned the recent attacks and has promised the “harshest possible sentence” for those responsible, the attacks have sparked public outrage and prompted demonstrations in Tehran and Isfahan.
Deputy Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni-Ejeie has been appointed to lead the investigation in Isfahan.
According to Iranian media reports, several men had been arrested in connection with the incidents, but were released due to insufficient evidence.
Government officials have denied the widespread speculation that the women were targeted for immodest dress and have attempted to minimize media coverage of the incidents.