Iranian Stoning Case – the Act of a Civilized Nation?

Iranian officials are extremely sensitive to Iran’s portrayal in the West and quick to respond when they feel their country has been unfairly treated. Earlier this year the government of Iran issued statements protesting the inaccurate depiction of the ancient Persians in the Hollywood film 300, pointing out that they were not, contrary to the film’s characterization, wild rabid creatures but in fact architects of the one of the earliest and greatest civilizations known to man.

 

 

In May, the Iranian regime summoned the French ambassador in Tehran. The reason? Marjane Satrapi’s animated movie of her best-selling books Persepolis was set to premier at the Cannes Film Festival. The books – and the movie – chart the author’s growing up through the events of the Revolution of 1979 and the subsequent war with Iraq. The graphic novels manage to pack in a lesson on Iran’s history while laying out a poignant memoir of a child’s experience of this turbulent period.

 

 

But because she writes/draws about the anachronisms of the Islamic regime, the rulers of Iran managed to find the time and energy to complain about the depiction of the Islamic Republic and ask for the film to be withdrawn.

 

 

The movie not only premiered in Cannes to a 20-minute standing ovation, but was joint winner of the Jury Prize.

 

 

If the Iranian regime is concerned with these ‘unfair’ depictions of Iran and its people, it should perhaps look a little closer to home. What ‘civilized’ country in the 21st century stones its people to death? Iran, unfortunately, despite its 2,500-year old history, despite being the longest continuously inhabited land by a single people in the world, despite the pre- and post-Islamic splendors of its architecture and arts, still puts people – mostly women – to death by stoning, for ‘crimes’ such as adultery. Under Iran’s Sharia law, being raped can count as adultery for a woman.

 

 

A couple were reportedly sentenced to be stoned to death on 21 June in the town of Takistan in the province of Qazvin in Iran. This couple lived together and had two children out of wedlock. Those children have grown up in jail with their mother Mokarrameh Ebrahimi – both parents, it seems, have been in jail for 11 years.

 

 

After a national and international outcry orchestrated by the blogosphere, the sentences were commuted. But reports now suggest that Jafar Kiani was in fact stoned to death on 5 July, that the stoning took place in Aghche-kand rather than Takistan because the people of Takistan and their MP, Rajab Rahmani, were opposed to the stoning.

 

 

According to unofficial reports, only a few villagers participated in the stoning so the sentence was carried out mostly by officials (Iran refuses to comment with officials preferring to remain silent). Kamangir provides more details on his blog as well as the press release issued by the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign. Please visit www.stopstoning.org for more details and suggested action.

 

 

It is reported that Mokarrameh has been told of her partner’s death and is in deep distress. It could well be her turn next, so pressure must be brought to bear on the Iranian regime to end such practices.

 

 

The judgment has been based solely on the judge, Mr Eslahi’s, decision, rather than on the testimony of witnesses, as Sharia law states for cases of stoning. No witnesses to the adultery or the couple’s alleged co-habitation have come forward but the judgment nevertheless has been made.

 

 

The people of Iran have no stomach for such barbaric punishment. The international community quite rightly sees such acts as brutal and regressive, with no place in the modern world. With Iran’s enemies poised to portray the regime as inhuman in order to soften public opinion for a possible attack, it is incumbent on the Islamic Republic to review its treatment of its own people and bring its laws and practices in line with the sort of behavior befitting an ancient nation, once one of the greatest civilizations on earth. After all wasn’t it the father of the Persian Empire, Cyrus the Great, whose Clay Cylinder contains the first ever declaration of human rights? And shouldn’t the regime take to heart the motto that graces the entrance of the United Nations building in New York – it comes from 12th-century Iranian poet Sa’adi:

 

 

‘The sons of Adam are limbs of each other,

Having been created of one essence.
When the calamity of time affects one limb

The other limbs cannot remain at rest.
If thou hast no sympathy for the troubles of others
Thou art unworthy to be called by the name of a human.’

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About Kamin Mohammadi

Kamin Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist, broadcaster and commentator who lives in London where she moved after leaving Iran as a child. She specialises in writing about Iran, particularly modern society. She is passionate about bringing out the human elements of the stories we see, or more often don’t see, in the news. To this end she has published major pieces on the after effects of the Iran-Iraq war, drug addiction and AIDS in Iran, the innocent civilian victims of chemical bombardments, sexual politics and even the Iranian penchant for both devotion to religion and partying. She is currently writing a family memoir about Iran, to be published in 2009 by Bloomsbury and working on a cross-media project to commemorate the Iran-Iraq war. In the past she has written guide books and edited glossy magazines.

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