03 November 2010

Iran's barbaric laws

By the time you read this, an Iranian woman may have already been stoned to death. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday 3rd of November for the crime of adultery. Ever since her horrible sentence became known worldwide, international pressure has mounted on Iran to stay Ashtiani’s execution and release her from prison.

The Iranian penal code is unapologetically theocratic; strict interpretations of sharia (Islamic law) apply with little regard for human rights and the need for laws to adapt to changing social mores. This is what happens when laws are confounded with religious absolutism - common sense, compassion and critical debate are rejected in favour of infallible moralism based on appeals to divine authority.

The details are telling. In cases of adultery punishable by being stoned to death, Article 104 of the penal code specifies that "the stones should not be so large that the person dies upon being hit by one or two of them; neither should they be so small they could not be defined as stones." Iranian lawmakers have deliberately framed this cruel punishment to prevent a mercifully quick death for the condemned.

Whatever the severity of Ashtiani’s crime (and there is a possibility that her charges have been trumped up), the very idea of stoning a person to death is utterly contemptible. It is nothing less than monstrous. The protracted agony caused by having hard projectiles repeatedly smashing into a human body is a horrible thing to imagine, let alone experience. But when it is a state-sanctioned method of execution, enforced as a means to terrify citizens into complying with retarded religious ideas of morality, it shouts volumes of that state’s immaturity and tyranny.

But there’s hope. The Iranian government is internally divided over this issue. Moderate elements say that the Koran does not explicitly pronounce stoning as punishment for adultery (it is only prescribed as such in the Hadith, or records of the Prophet Muhammad). As with any religiously influenced law, it all comes down to semantics and subjective interpretation.

There is also the not-so-light matter of Iran’s global image. Given the visceral horror of stoning a person to death, even those who are sympathetic to Iran’s national and global ambitions cannot bring themselves to endorse such inhumane laws. The comprehension of cruelty transcends political and cultural allegiances.

You can contribute to the international protests over Iran’s treatment of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani by contacting the individuals listed below and letting them know your thoughts on this matter. We can only hope that the Iranian government cares more about its reputation than the stubborn upholding of its barbaric laws.

Head of the Judiciary
Sadeqh Larijani
Howzeh Riyasat-e Qoveh Qazaiyeh (Office of the Head of the Judiciary)
Pasteur St., Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhouri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Email: info@dadiran.ir or via website: http://www.dadiran.ir/tabid/75/Default.aspx
First starred box: your given name; second starred box: your family name; third: your email address

Head of the Judiciary in East Azerbaijan Province
Malek-Ashtar Sharifi
Office of the Head of the Judiciary in Tabriz
East Azerbaijan, Iran

Ali Khamenei
The Office of the Supreme Leader
Islamic Republic Street – Shahid Keshvar Doust Street
Tehran, Iran
Email: via website: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/index.php?p=letter (English)
http://www.leader.ir/langs/fa/index.php?p=letter (Persian)

Secretary General, High Council for Human Rights
Mohammad Javad Larijani
Howzeh Riassat-e Ghoveh Ghazaiyeh
Pasteur St, Vali Asr Ave., south of Serah-e Jomhuri
Tehran 1316814737, Iran
Fax: +98 21 3390 4986
Email: bia.judi@yahoo.com

Please urgently donate to the Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani campaign by making your cheque payable to ‘Count Me In – Iran’ and sending it to BM Box 6754, London WC1N 3XX, UK. You can also pay via Paypal (http://countmein-iran.com/donate.html).

For more information, contact:

Mina Ahadi, International Committee against Execution and International Committee against Stoning
Tel: +49 (0) 1775692413

Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity
Tel: +44 7719166731

UPDATE 4 NOVEMBER: Latest reports indicate that the Iranian government did not execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani on 3 November. Iranian officials deny that this decision was influenced by international condemnation. However, their petulant complaint that the Western media has turned this incident into "a symbol of seeking freedom for women... therefore, trying to turn an ordinary (court) case into a lever to pressure our nation" shows that global protests did have a deterring effect after all.


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