Friday, July 20, 2018

Barbarous Present

by Anastasia (writer), London, July 06, 2011

Credit: Amnesty International
Sakineh Ashtiani

Sakineh Ashtiani, an Iranian woman, sits in jail under sentence of death. Her lawyer has been tortured.

It’s a year now since I wrote in a mood on some anger about the proposed fate of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian woman condemned to death by stoning on a charge of adultery

The outcry this medievalism caused across the world was the occasion of considerable embarrassment for the Iranian regime, leading to a temporary stay of execution. But she is still in prison, still facing an uncertain future. As I said last August, the fact that she was already been subject to ninety-nine lashes, and had already been in prison for five years - now six - awaiting this ultimate fate, defies even expressions like ‘cruel and unusual punishment.’

This whole business has rather slipped out of the eye of the world, which is probably what the Iranian regime wants, waiting for a quiet moment before announcing that sentence has been carried out. As it is Houtan Kian, the man who had the courage to act as her legal representative, was arrested nine months ago and is being held incommunicado, subject to repeated torture.

Shadi Sadr, a prominent Iranian lawyer who has represented many women facing stoning, said: "I have received new information from a source in Tabriz that Kian had been severely mistreated and tortured while in jail.”

Earlier this year Kain himself managed to smuggle a letter out of jail, detailing the abuse;

All the signs of torture remain on my body ... I have been burned by approximately 60 cigarettes on my legs, testicles and feet (5 cigarettes there). I am only given one meal a day, in the morning; once it was a small piece of cheese, another time, three dates.

My teeth have been almost completely broken by blows with boots, as has my nose, which bleeds permanently. At midnight, in cold weather, I was soaked with a fire hose and left, with hands and feet bound, in the courtyard until four in the morning, when I was taken to be interrogated.

Ashtiani’s own fate remains unclear in the face of a series of ambiguous and contradictory statements made by both the judiciary and the government of Iran. It’s as well to remember, too, that she is only one of fourteen people presently sitting in jail under sentence of stoning.

The conclusion I reached in my Evil Law article remains the same. This punishment under Sharia law is carried out in the name of God, in the name of religion. What kind of people are they, I have to ask, who can believe in a God like this, in a law like this?

There is no greater danger than the literal, unimaginative interpretation of sacred texts. For centuries women, and it was mostly women, were tortured and burned to death in Europe because of a biblical injunction about not allowing witches to live, which turned out to be a mistaken reading anyway, good news for witches, not so good for poisoners. Nevertheless, I simply cannot imagine even the most unregenerate Christian fundamentalist wishing to return to a barbarous past. But in Iran a barbarous past is a barbarous present.

About the Writer

Anastasia is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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8 comments on Barbarous Present

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By Caballero_69 on July 07, 2011 at 08:06 am


Thank you for exposing once again the indefensible practices used [almost exclusively] against women by a rigidly orthodox regime implementing laws based on fundamentalist religion. As you say, the barbarous past is the barbarous present in Iran.

It is time people throughout the world advanced beyond being human beings and begin being humane beings.

No matter how fervently some insist they are carrying out the will of god, these practices and others like them are still performed by human beings on the basis of interpretations of human writings by other human beings. The perpetrators need to accept responsibility for the deeds and cease and desist.

The rest of us need to raise our voices in a continuing clamor to ensure that this sort of thing vanishes from the earth.

Instead of turning to ancient texts of dubious provenance for their legal systems, all nations should follow the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which begins -

"Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction."


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By Anastasia on July 07, 2011 at 06:42 pm

Thanks, Larry. It's an important story, though I begin to think that this sort of thing is out of place here.

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By Anastasia on July 07, 2011 at 06:53 pm

Oh, by sheer coincidence this story made it to the front page of the London Times today. My finger is clearly on the news pulse. :-))

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By Anastasia on July 10, 2011 at 07:55 pm

Julian, it certainly is not.

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By Anastasia on July 10, 2011 at 07:55 pm

Thanks, Dean. :-)

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By Barkha Dhar on July 16, 2011 at 06:36 pm

People who believe that they make the law and, thus have the power to break it-it is those people who thrust upon such atrocities on a woman. When did religion preach such atrocities and wait a minute stoning by death is that the right solution to stop adultery? Good lord have mercy! Stoning is nothing, but a ridiculous act of man. Shameful, just shameful.

Anastasia, I had goosebumps just watching it in a movie(The Stoning of Soraya.M). Its horrific.

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By Anastasia on July 18, 2011 at 07:33 pm

Barkha, indeed it is Read the link to my blog article, if you have not already done so. It explains the full horror, why it is a greater horror for women than for men.

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By TonyBerkman on November 14, 2011 at 01:36 am

Death by stoning is vile and a tool used by Iran, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yeme, Iran, Pakistan, Sudan and Nigeria.

The Iran Penal Cod provides the following regarding "death by stoning."

he current Iranian Penal Code [PDF], ratified in 1991, outlines stoning in Article 83:

Adultery in the following cases shall be punishable by stoning: (1) Adultery by a married man who is wedded to a permanent wife with whom he has had intercourse and may have intercourse when he so desires; (2) Adultery of a married woman with an adult man provided the woman is permanently married and has had intercourse with her husband and is able to do so again.

In Chapter 4, the quality of punishment is outlined:

Article 100: The flogging of an adulterer shall be carried out while he is standing upright and his body bare except for his genitals. The lashes shall strike all parts of his body–- except his face, head and genitals– with full force. The adulteress shall be flogged while she is seated and her clothing tightly bound to her body.

Article 102: The stoning of an adulterer or adulteress shall be carried out while each is placed in a hole and covered with soil, he up to his waist and she up to a line above her breasts.

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