A prominent Quran reciter in Shiite Iran, who has been affiliated with the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has been accused of raping multiple children, according to some news outlets.
It remains unclear how many victims in total have accused 46-year-old Saeed Toosi, also spelled Said Tossi, of rape.
Toosi has been identified in some news articles as Ayatollah Khamenei’s “favorite Quran reciter.”
“Toosi is known to have performed in the presence of Khamenei on various occasions, meaning that he was trusted by the leader’s inner circle,” reports The Guardian.
Citing sources close to reformists, Al Arabiya, a news outlet from Sunni Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, reports that “the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution is planning to assassinate Tossi , to preserve the leadership reputation and put an end to the scandal.”
Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje’i, a spokesman for Iran’s judiciary, confirmed the case against the Quran reciter, adding that it will not be made public, adds Al Arabiya.
Nevertheless, the spokesman revealed this week that Toosi was charged after four victims filed complaints against him.
“It is not clear what stage Toosi’s legal case is at with the Iranian judiciary. The publicity has forced the authorities to say that the case has not yet been closed and is still ongoing,” points out The Guardian.
Toosi has reportedly denied the allegations in a statement, dismissing the charges as “bogus and total lies” aimed at tarnishing the image of Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Guardian reports:
The allegations are unprecedented in the Islamic republic, where such figures are generally trusted by the public and claims of this nature are usually kept in the dark, with few victims known to have ever dared to come forward.
In the past week, at least three male complainants have given separate interviews accusing Saeed Toosi, a prominent qari (someone who recites Muslims’ holy book with a melodious sound), of sexual misconduct including rape while they were between the ages of 12 and 13.
The reported number of victims varies. Al Arabiya reports that Toosi is accused of raping 19 children.
Meanwhile, Persian News Network (PNN) reports that he “raped seven of his students aged between 12 [and] 14, during the past seven years” and The Guardian notes that “as many as 10 people have now claimed abuse.”
The Guardian adds:
The allegations first surfaced widely on social media, which in the absence of a free press have a huge reach in Iran. Some of the alleged victims then went public, speaking to Voice of America’s [VOA] Persian TV network after their calls for justice fell on deaf ears in the Iranian judiciary.
Local agencies and newspapers, including the reformist Shargh and Etemaad, have also carried reports identifying Toosi as the alleged abuser.
Some of the complainants also spoke to BBC Persian, notes the Guardian. Although VOA Persian and BBC Persian are banned inside Iran and regularly jammed, millions of people reportedly watch the channel via illegal satellite systems.
In an audio recording provided to VOA by one of the victims, Toosi is reportedly heard saying that Khamenei is well aware of his crimes and has agreed to cover up the case in order to safeguard the reputation of Iran.
“Sex is still considered a taboo subject in Iran,” reports The Guardian. “There is little public debate around the issue of consent or the protection of children in schools or among families.”
“In a country where consensual sex between adults outside marriage is forbidden, same-sex intercourse between non-homosexual individuals is rife, and many confuse homosexuality with bacha bazi: sex between a man and a boy,” it adds. “The Iranian judiciary has added to the confusion, considering both as lavat – same-sex intercourse – which is punishable by death.”