Isfahan, Iran, November 4 – Manufacturers of caustic chemical compounds are ramping up production of certain products in anticipation of more attacks on women, a spokesman for an industry trade group said today.

A recent spate of attacks in this central Iranian city has companies in the Middle East and beyond thinking that the trend of vitriolage, as it is known, appears to be spreading beyond the confines of Southeast Asia where it has been common for decades. If that proves true, demand for sulfuric and nitric acids will increase, and those companies are already gearing up for the prospect, says Ayman El-Efantaman of the Association of Chemical-Industrial Distributors.

“Our members have been watching the developments in Afghanistan and Pakistan, right next door, and wondering when this exciting phenomenon would come to Iran,” said El-Elfantaman. “The preferred materials for acid attacks are the really nasty sulfuric and nitric acids, but a lot of people apparently prefer the cheaper, if less lethal, hydrochloric acid, and manufacturers can turn that stuff out basically on demand.”

sulfuric acidThe potential market in Iran is large enough that international players are also starting to take notice. “We’ve had our eye on the Mideast ever since the acid attacks back in 2006,” said Dow Chemical spokesman Tillet Burns. “Now that as many as 25 women have been targeted in Isfahan alone, just this October, we’re sure there’s plenty of room in the region for some big players, too.” He expressed hope that the international sanctions on Iran would not interfere with sales efforts in the long term.

One hurdle facing the would-be sellers of acid is the uncertainty over who perpetrated the Isfahan attacks, and under what motivation. The government in Tehran strenuously denies the assailants were motivated by conservative religious ideology, but the prevailing assumption is that official rhetoric and legislation have encouraged violence against women perceived as violating standards of modesty.

The uncertainty may impact marketing efforts. “We need to assess the psychology of the potential user accurately,” noted Burns. “It would be imprudent to invest in a marketing strategy that assumes a religious, ideological motivation, if in fact the attackers until now have been, for example, engaging in hazing or gang initiation rituals.” A proper diagnosis, stresses Burns, is key to finding the right hook for selling acid.

Even given that difficulty, Burns believes the market will open up, and the challenges do not need to be overcome immediately.

“It’s not a burning issue,” he said.

Read more of David’s tasteless sarcasm at PreOccupied Territory.