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 http://anatheimp.blogspot.com/2010/08/evil-law.html.
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.