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Online Women Harassnet in Iran

Online Sexual Harassment

It is with great pleasure to announce that on April 5, 2016  Baaroo Foundation is releasing its most recent research ‘Online Sexual Harassment in the Eyes of Iranian Internet Users’. The study has been developed based on a survey of 25 questions taken by 722 respondents. The survey comprised of three sections: (1) problem comprehension, (2) user experience, and (3) demographic questions. The first section posed general questions in order to identify users’ understanding of online sexual harassment while the second contained tailored questions for those with any first hand experience. Lastly, we asked survey respondents of their demographics which paints a substantial part of our data analysis. The survey was posted on multiple online platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Telegram channels and Balatarin between January 17 and February 1, 2016. Over the course of two weeks, 722 individual responses were received, 623 of which were submitted and registered as complete. Only complete responses were considered for the present analysis. There is a 4% margin of error, which is calculated based on the reported number of Internet users in Iran by Internet World Stats.


Among the key findings of this study are:


Social networking websites are considered to be most susceptible to facilitating online sexual harassment (35% of responses). This is respectively followed by online dating websites and applications (26%) and messaging applications such as Telegram, WhatsApp and Viber (25%).

Social Networks35%
Online Dating Apps26%
Messengers, e.g. Telegram25%

83% of respondents perceive sustained cyberstalking and embarrassing someone on multiple digital platforms as the most common definition of online sexual harassment.

Definition: Cyberstalking83%
Witnessed Online Harassment68%

68% know someone who experienced at least one instance of online sexual harassment. The two most frequently experienced forms that survey respondents were informed about include (1) receiving insulting, sexual messages on different digital platforms and (2) cyberstalking.


38% of survey respondents have personally experienced online sexual harassment. 84% of them are women.

Personally Experienced Harassment38%

Among those with personal stories of online sexual harassment, the two most commonly experienced forms are (1) cyberstalking and (2) constantly receiving sexual, inconvenient messages or requests over dating or messaging applications.



Among the same sample group, 72.5% of instances of online sexual harassment occurred through social networking websites.

Harassed on Social Media72.5%
Harassed for 3 Months62%

Online sexual harassment often has a rather short span of 3 months or less. In extreme cases, however, harassing behavior extends for as long as 12 months or more (8% of respondents with personal experiences).


More than half of online sexual harassment cases go unrecognized. 54% of respondents with a personal experience did not respond to online sexual harassment.

Recurring Online Harassment54%
Ignored Harassment57%

Online sexual harassment is often recurring and affect women most; 57% of respondents with a personal experience were not new to online sexual harassment. 62% of these are women.


Only 22% agree that the Iranian law enforcement have the required expertise to appropriately tackle online sexual harassment. The same applies to awareness about laws that protect individuals against [online] [sexual] harassment. The other 78% expressed lack of trust in law enforcement’s expertise and lack of knowledge of existing laws when it comes to harassment in cyberspace.

Lack of Trust in Law Enforcement78%



The full report, dataset and infographic are now available

We look forward to expanding the conversation further and engaging with experts, individuals and Internet users. Should you have any questions or feedback about this research, please email us at [email protected]. Make sure to join the conversation and spread the word.


Simin Kargar
Simin Kargar
Human Rights Lawyer

The study has been conducted by Simin Kargar. Simin is a human rights lawyer with specific focus on media and communication laws and policies in Iran. She examines the legal and sociological aspects of new technologies, as well as politics and mechanisms of counteracting online tools and communities.


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