Sunday, 11 July 2010

Stoning for Adultery: Still a Reality in Iran

Iran remains the darkest and most barbaric spot on the planet in terms of capital punishment. It is one of the very few countries where the rate of executions is actually increasing. Moreover, the death penalty is practiced for such ‘crimes’ as adultery and homosexual conduct among adults.
Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who is a 43-year-old widow and mother of two children, has been facing execution by stoning for adultery. Some recent reports suggest that Iran has retreated from its plans, following international protests, but that it will still conduct the execution by hanging.
Meanwhile, a so-called Iranian human rights ‘expert’, Mohammed Javed Larijani, who is head of the ‘human rights council’ of the Iranian judiciary, has condemned international protests against the execution, saying that Iran's judicial system will not change its direction because of ‘Western attacks’ and ‘media pressures’. All I can say about this 'expert' is that he didn't graduate from our human rights programme.
In 1999, I visited Iran to lecture about international criminal law. I was asked by lawyers in the government whether Iran might be subject to prosecutions for crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court because it conducts executions of women for adultery by stoning. I was then told there were a handful of such executions every year, and the question was a technical one: would this be a widespread or systematic attack on a civilian population? More recently, I was back in Iran and when I recalled this conversation. I was told: ‘We don’t do that anymore.’
At events in Iran, speakers always begin with homage to Allah who is described as ‘the most merciful’. But the State isn’t very merciful when it comes to capital punishment. Rather the opposite. Some explain that this thirst for barbaric punishments comes from Islamic laws and doctrines. But I think that Islam and its laws are indeed fundamentally 'merciful'. The problem is that barbaric regimes hide behind distorted and anachronistic versions of religious text as justification for what tyrants - whatever their religion - have been imposing on their people since time immemorial.

4 comments:

Zuzeeko Abeng said...

Well written! I was shocked to learn that in 2010 the Iranian Penal Code still has room for such a medieval form of punishment.I was particularly outraged by Article 102 and Article 104 of the Code.

I wonder what qualifies Mohammed Javed Larijani as a human rights "expert".

Windsong said...

Iranian women are truly second class citizens. As pointed out recently by the UN’s Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (UN Doc. A/63/459 October 2008):

'The penal and civil laws contain discriminatory provisions that are in urgent need of reform.'

The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women (http://www.stop-stoning.org/home1) have also stated:

'In the Iranian Penal Code, a married woman has no right to divorce, a privilege which is reserved for the husband. Women have no custody rights over their children after age seven; as a result, women who can obtain a divorce by proving their husbands are either abusive or an addict, choose not to do so fearing the loss of their children. A man can marry up to four wives simultaneously, and may establish a sexual relationship with any other single woman through a temporary marriage without the requirements of marriage registration, ceremony, or obligation to any possible child that may result. In addition, a woman is legally obliged to submit to her husband‟s sexual demands and do her best to satisfy him sexually. Hence if a man is sexually unsatisfied or in an unhappy relationship, he has many avenues open to him to dissolve the marriage and/or satisfy his sexual needs in a temporary “marriage.” However, these legal options are denied to Iranian women, and a woman seeking alternative intimate relationships is, in the eyes of the law, “committing adultery.”'

Under the Iranian Penal code this discrimination begins early. The age of criminal responsibility for boys is 14 and three months whereas for girls it is 8 years and nine months.

It is an irony of fact that on the 21 April 2010 Iran was elected to the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Commission on the Status of Women(CSW). I am not certain however that Iran, even as part of the General Assembly’s recent unanimous vote on 2 July 2010 to establish the new body the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (http://www.unwomen.org/) to be known as UN Women, will fully support the organizations avowed aim of “achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.”

In a reply to a ECOSOC’s CSW questionnaire sent to all member states designed to evaluate a 15 year review of the implementation of the Bejing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a report drafted in 2008 by the Centre for Women and Family Affairs in Tehran declared that,

‘instead of considering superficial facts regarding men and women’s equality it suggests gender equilibrium’ as a better option.

Thus Iran is determined to see women’s equality as a matter of equilibrance rather than a matter of right. For Iran’s rulers and lawmakers it is merely a question of balancing the ‘stones’ of expediency that are not too big to give the appearance of killing off the notion of women’s rights altogether but yet again are not too small as to allow the possibility of those rights escaping into harmony.

Windsong said...

It is an irony of fact that on the 21 April 2010 Iran was elected to the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Commission on the Status of Women(CSW). I am not certain however that Iran, even as part of the General Assembly’s recent unanimous vote on 2 July 2010 to establish the new body the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (http://www.unwomen.org/) to be known as UN Women, will fully support the organizations avowed aim of “achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.”
In a reply to a ECOSOC’s CSW questionnaire sent to all member states designed to evaluate a 15 year review of the implementation of the Bejing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) the Islamic Republic of Iran, in a report drafted in 2008 by the Centre for Women and Family Affairs in Tehran declared that,
‘instead of considering superficial facts regarding men and women’s equality it suggests gender equilibrium’ as a better option.
Thus Iran is determined to see women’s equality as a matter of balance rather than a matter of right.
For Iran’s rulers and lawmakers it is merely a question of balancing the ‘stones’ of expediency that are not too big to give the appearance of killing off the notion of women’s rights altogether but yet again are not too small as to allow the possibility of those rights escaping.

Roger Derham

Friends of Sakineh said...

The reason that this is still a reality is two fold. The first is due to a proposed bill to remove stoning from the penal code. Although it has been passed, it will not be put into law until the Guardian Council approves it. It must meet so called Islamic standards. Secondly, and more importantly, a judge can choose to completely ignore the law if he (there are no longer any women judges) feels that it does not follow the Islamic principles. And in the case of Sakineh, that is exactly how 3 of th 5 judges came upon their decision to convict her the 2nd time. (Yes, she was convicted twice for the same crime.) There was no evidence, but instead the judges used their "knowledge".