Economic crisis and poverty fuel crime, including youth crime, in Tehran
As a crime wave sweeps across the capital, people are increasingly afraid of leaving home, even during daytime. Children as young as six have been arrested for robbery. Theft against public property have tripled, while those against private property have more than doubled. Eight prisoners could have fingers cut off after they were convicted of robbery.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – Poverty is on the rise in Iran because of the country’s economic crisis and the collapse of its currency; this, in turn, is fuelling a crime wave, especially theft and robbery.
As more and more Iranian fall below the poverty line (over 55 per cent according to the latest estimates), the age of offenders is falling as well.
Speaking to Middle East Eye, social pathologist Mohammad Reza Mahboubfar points out that children as young as six are stealing to help their families.
Despite being a sprawling and densely populated metropolis, until a few years ago, Tehran was deemed relatively safe with low crime rates and well-patrolled streets.
Years of isolation and international economic sanctions, mismanagement and widespread corruption have taken their toll so that the capital is now reporting a surge in crimes, especially robberies.
Last week, a Hollywood-style heist took place at a branch of the country’s national bank Melli in the heart of the capital. About 13 people were arrested in connection with the robbery, which was widely reported by the national media.
However, experts explain that this is but the tip of the iceberg and residents complain of an increasing number of crimes against property and offences by youth gangs.
“Last month, when I got out of my car, I was attacked by someone from the back. He put his knife under my throat and told me to give him whatever I had,” said Ali, a mugging victim from Tehran.
He added that another man on a motorbike immediately approached him and he had no choice but to hand over his mobile phone, wedding ring, watch, and a package he was carrying.
As a result of the robberies, which took place in broad daylight and in an affluent part of the city, Ali says he is carrying a low-quality phone and a fake watch just in case he goes through the same experience.
Even official statistics, although under government control, confirm the exponential growth in crimes compared to past years, fuelling fears of violent crimes in a population already struggling with economic hardships.
Warnings have been issued for ordinary citizens to take extra precautions, especially girls and women who have been advised not to get into unmarked taxies.
“Things have got so bad that I’m scared of leaving the house when it gets dark and I don’t live in a posh area,” said Maryam, a female Tehrani resident. "Muggings are common even during the day and you can have your cell phone or jewellery stolen anywhere, anytime.”
As of mid-2020 almost half of those arrested were first-time offenders, unlike in the past when most were repeat offenders, this according to the capital’s Criminal Investigation Police.
Theft against public property have tripled in the last three years, while those against private property have more than doubled.
The trend has sparked a violent crackdown by the authorities, which worries international human rights groups.
According to Amnesty International, Iran is set to cut off the fingers of eight prisoners, at least three of whom have been convicted as a result of "confessions" extracted through torture.
The eight, who were convicted of robbery, will be moved to two prisons equipped with a sort of guillotine to carry out the sentences: Evin prison in Tehran and Raja'i Shahr in Karaj.
One of the prisoners, Hadi Rostami, was flogged 60 times in February 2021 for “disrupting prison order” after he engaged in peaceful protest, including hunger strikes against his inhumane prison conditions.