The death of a young woman in Malekan, northwest Iran, has led to controversy and suspicions of possible involvement by a lawmaker.
The body of Zahra Navidpoor was discovered January 6 in her mother’s house and the prosecutor’s office in Malekan issued a statement saying it was an “apparent suicide”. But investigations are underway to determine the actual cause of death.
Those who closely follow developments related to Iran’s parliament knew about a woman with initials Z.N. who had accused Malekan’s deputy to parliament of rape.
Malekan is a town and a small region in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province.
She had released a video and audio clips accusing Salman Khodadadi that he had sexually assaulted her when she went asking for a job approximately four years ago.
The existence of this accusation immediately led to speculation on social media about the possible involvement of the lawmaker in her death, especially that she had spoken of receiving death threats a few weeks ago on TV station in the neighboring Republic of Azerbaijan.
Khodadadi, has served five four-year terms in Iran’s parliament, but he has been a controversial figure because of other sexual abuse allegations.
He is a veteran of Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) and also served in the intelligence ministry. These are strong credentials for a candidate in Iran to pass the stringent barrier of the Guardian Council, which vets all candidates before they can run for elected office. Usually, thousands are rejected, and a much smaller percentage are approved to run.
Roughly midway in his more than twenty-year career as a lawmaker he was summoned by a Tehran court and was arrested, charged with “moral corruption” and illegal sexual relations and later released apparently on bail.
In the Islamic Republic any intimate contact with a member of the opposite sex outside marriage is punishable by law.
It is not clear how his legal travails ended but he got reelected to parliament in 2008. A female member of parliament objected to the approval of his credentials but later she was persuaded to withdraw her objection.
In 2012, the Guardian Council did not approve his candidacy and for one term he was out of parliament.
When President Hassan Rouhani was elected in 2013, Khodadadi became an advisor to foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. Khodadadi apparently has a doctorate in international relations.
In 2016 he was again elected to parliament. During the 23 years since he first became a deputy, his name has been associated with sexual abuse and rape. He is also one of those lawmakers who reportedly has more than one wife.
Now, Khodadadi’s name is associated with the death of a young woman who had publicly accused him of sexual assault. It is not clear if he will be approved as a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2020.