[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jan 6 18:36:38 UTC 2007
Stop Stonings in Iran, But Don't Confuse the Issu
The ritual of stoning is codified in the Islamic Penal Code of Iran.
Treated like a Muslim corpse, the victim, usually a woman, is washed and
wrapped in shrouds. She is then buried in a ditch up to her shoulders and
then stoned by a crowd surrounding her.
The stones should be neither too small nor too large, but just the right
size to guarantee a gradual and excruciating death. Although a man, too,
might be sentenced to stoning for adultery, the legitimacy of polygamy and
extra-marital sex (sigheh) often allows men to escape punishment.
In May 2006, a woman and a man, Mahboubeh M. and Abbas H., were stoned to
death in Mashhad. There are currently 8 people--7 women and a
man--sentenced to stoning.
In response to recent criticism of the practice by the European Union,
Jamal Karimi-Rad, the Iranian minister of justice and spokesperson for the
judiciary, publicly denied that stoning is practiced here. That has
generated considerable uncertainty and concern about those sentenced to
stoning. Could it mean that the government still means to kill them, just
by other means?
2 women were hanged in Tehran and Ghazvin for adultery in 2006.
Worst Form of Violence
Stoning is the worst product of discrimination and violence against women
in Iran, who in many ways enjoy remarkable freedoms and rights.
Nearly 80 % of Iranian women are literate, around 95 % of school-age girls
and female teens are enrolled in school. The percentage of boys and girls
enrolled in grade school is nearly even; 49 to 51. More than 1/2 of
college students are female.
Although discrimination and sexual harassment do trouble the work place,
there is almost no legal barrier to women's employment in the public and
private sectors. The enforced gender segregation of many aspects of
society by the government has even helped women occupy positions
equivalent to men in education, health and the service industry.
But while girls and women enjoy some equality in the public sphere it ends
at the household door, where gender discrimination and violence is
officially sanctioned by the Family Law and supported by the penal codes.
The Family Law declares the husband the head of the household with
exclusive rights to divorce and child custody and allows him to practice
polygamy and commit honor killing without penalty.
A girl in Iran is considered mature for marriage at age 13 and might be
forced into an arranged marriage. Once married, she has no right to
divorce and is obliged by the law to satisfy her husband's sexual demands.
Rape is not recognized in a marital relationship. In case of divorce, the
woman would have no custody rights. If a woman finds herself trapped in an
unhappy marriage and commits adultery, she will be sentenced to death by
Campaign Launched in October
In October, some women's rights activists and lawyers launched the Stop
Stoning Forever campaign in Iran to eradicate the law of stoning.
6 weeks later, the European Parliament passed a resolution on violation of
human rights in Iran and demanded stoning to be abolished.
The campaign has so far been successful in saving two women from stoning.
Parisa A. and Hajieh Esmailvand, each a mother of 2 children, were
defended through the appeal process by the campaign's volunteer lawyers.
While campaign activists continue their efforts to save others, they aim
to revise the law.
The success of this campaign depends on international support.
We Iranian women are inspired by and have been learning from U.S. women's
struggles for their rights. Now that it is time to put our learning into
action, we ask for the support and solidarity of American women and men.
But we do not want our outreach to U.S. people to be confused in any way
with support for the policies of the current U.S. administration.
We want our culture and people to be respected and advanced by legal
means. We work in a peaceful way that seeks engagement.
The Bush administration, by contrast, darkens 2007 with the threat of
bombings of our nuclear facilities.
Women Worse Off in Region
Our outreach to American people should similarly not be confused with
support for the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Those attacks came
with a promise to bring gender equality along with democracy to those
countries. Years later, women in the region find themselves in a worse
In Iraq, kidnappings, rapes and "honor" killings are now far more common.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban is raising its ugly and violent reach for
power and control.
In Iran, the United States has repeatedly announced its interest in a
regime change and has allocated $70 million to support internal political
opposition. This has caused the current Iranian regime to see the hand of
the United States at work in every movement for social and legal change.
Because the women's movement is chief among these we find ourselves
undermined by an air of suspicion about our genuine aims and activities.
The U.S. military presence has empowered all fundamentalist factions both
within and outside the governments in the region and fueled opposition to
women's rights. In the face of everyday violence in the region, the
women's agenda has been pushed back far behind a long list of issues such
as national sovereignty, inflation and unemployment that are considered
Nevertheless, the women's movement is strong and is the stronghold of the
social and political movement toward democracy in Iran.
The current campaigns for gender equality and women's rights, such as the
Stop Stoning Forever campaign, are some of the most significant democratic
initiatives in the country.
We welcome your understanding and support.
(source: WOMENSENEWS----Dr. Soheila Vahdati is an Iranian American human
rights activist who has written many articles about women's human rights
and gender issues in Iranian journals. She is a coordinator of the Stop
Stoning Forever campaign and is based in California)
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