Does a shocking video mark a turning point on animal abuse in Iran?
Thousands of Iranians protested the brutal treatment of a dog depicted in a viral video - with some even defying the authorities to protest outside government offices. Does the incident mark a turning point on animal rights in the country?
The footage shows a man beating a dog with a stick and kicking it. He grabs the animal's ears and tail, throwing it around and beating it against his pickup truck. As the dog tries to escape by jumping into the back of the truck, the man follows and bashes the animal repeatedly using a shovel. Onlookers laugh as the dog yelps in pain.
This disturbing video spread quickly online in Iran, especially on the popular mobile phone messaging application, Telegram. The incident was investigated by park rangers who traced the truck's number plate and were later able to locate the man, a local hunter in a village in the north-western province of Golestan.
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But what happened next was surprising in a country where there are no laws against animal abuse and where dogs in particular are considered "unclean" by many conservative Muslims. There was a huge social media reaction, with animal rights groups and ordinary citizens condemning the incident.
"This is shameful! The man deserves to receive the same treatment," read one typical comment.
In light of the public outcry, the local prosecutor told Iran's state TV that the hunter will get two months in prison and 74 lashes, as the hunter had performed an act that was "haram", or unacceptable in Islam. The dog has reportedly been transferred to safe hands and is being treated for its injuries.
On Monday, protestors gathered outside the Environment Department to call for legislation to prevent further cases of animal abuse. The protest in Tehran, along with similar ones in other cities, happened despite a ban on demonstrations in advance of Friday's elections.
Following the case, the head of Iran's Department of Environment Masoumeh Ebtekar said that a proposal has been sent to the cabinet for protection of stray animals.
A minority of upper-class Iranians have dogs as pets, but the country's morality police has the right to seize such animals. In 2014, a group of influential conservative MPs put forth a proposal to criminalise dog keeping as a pet, with offenders subjected to 74 lashes or a fine.
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