Anyone with the slightest interest in comedy can’t help but suppress a laugh at the thought of men dressed as women pretending to be men shouting and baying ‘Stone Her, Stone Her’. It is funny because of the absurdity, a parody of a time that modern society forgot. Except for Ayatollahs in Iran, who seemed to have taken it as an instruction manual of how justice should be done.
For those of you who haven’t read the papers the case surrounds a woman, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtini. Ms Ashtini was found guilty of adultery 5 years ago and sentenced to 99 lashes as punishment. She was then charged with the murder of her husband, although found innocent of the crime, she was re-convicted of the earlier adultery charge (despite already being punished for it) and this time sentenced to death by stoning. Ridiculous, barbaric, against the very premise of natural justice? Oh it get’s worse…
It is only fair to point out at this time that ‘death by stoning’ is in no way Islamic, it is not mentioned in the Koran at all. However, following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Mullahs were quick to install it into the penal code as their punishment of choice for adulterers. Article 83 states that it should be the punishment for married men or women who commit adultery. Articles 102 and 104 then give detail on the process of stoning. Article 102 states that men should buried to their waists, women up to their breasts. Article 104 concerns itself with the size of the stones which “should not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes; nor should they be so small they cannot be called a stone.” Finally, in case you were worried the odds were stacked a little in favour of the stoners rather than the stoned, Article 90 states that if a man or woman manages to free themselves and run away they will be pardoned. If you are concerned that Article 90 is a sign that fanatical liberalism has taken hold then it is worth remembering that the individuals are wrapped head to toe in a shroud beforehand – even Houdini would struggle in these circumstances.
Writing this, I can’t really work out what appalls me most. The inequality that women like Ms Ashtini face (A women’s testimony is only worth half that of a man), the sheer brutality of the situation or the fact that it all so pre-meditated. There is a process to be followed – articles that ensure consistency of punishment and give this cruel, ridiculous practise some kind of legitimacy in law. What you can’t ignore however is that dozens, perhaps hundreds of people have been murdered this way in recent times. And Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtini is next. Her life as I write this hangs in the balance. Only two people can make the decision to save her – Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei or the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani.
That is not to say you cannot do anything though – international pressure, if large enough, can and has saved people before. Write a letter (Or just copy and paste these ones) to your MP or your local paper. Sign-up to one of the petitions online, or use facebook to show your support.