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Friday, August 13, 2010

The Story of Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani

The Islamic Republic of Iran is not known for its leniency in the face of crime. It imposes a strict form of Shariah law making its legal system somewhat at odds with the generally  held morality across much of Europe and parts of America. But very few cases have caused as much controversy outside the country as the case of Sakineh Mohammedi Ashtiani.

Ms Ashtiani has been detained since 2006 in East Azerbaijan.In May of that year she was sentenced to 99 lashes for illicit relationships with two men following the death of her husband.. In September of 2006 the case was re-opened during the trial of the  of the man accused of murdering her husband. It was claimed she had committed the more sever crime of adultery with the accused and was sentenced to death by stoning. She denied the allegation.

Needless to say the conviction caused an outcry all over the world as human rights groups rushed to condemn  the decision of the court. Even international Governments weighed in on the debate with the Brazlian Government notably coming out against the ruling. It had been one of the nations defending Iran in the nuclear controversy speaking out against the sanctions and engaging with them to find a better solution to their diplomatic problems. However, it angered Iran by offering amnesty to Ms Ashtiani, a request which the Islamic Republic of course denied.

Concerns for Ms Ashtiani's safety in the immediate future have heightened after she appeared on Iranian TV stating she was aware of her husbands cousin's plan to kill her husband and was an accessory to the killing, while at the same time having an affair with her husbands murderer. She also stated she would sue her lawyer for bringing attention to her case and embarassing her.

However it appears that the international media has its doubts that the confession was legitimate with her lawyer stating that it was most likely made after being tortured by Iranian officials. Some sectors even claimed the woman speaking was an actress. Indeed it has yet to be independently verified that the woman speaking was Ms Ashtiani.  Numerous convicted criminals in Iran have been forced to make a confession through torture and coercion, later speaking out about their ordeals.

The international pressure however has not gone unheard in Iran. A 25 year old woman convicted of adultery lost her baby in prison after being beaten up in prison. Her sentence has been changed to hanging after condemnation of the cruel form of execution from outside. Another young woman aged 19 was imprisoned at 15 after her husband claimed she had an extra-marital affair. Her original sentence was to be execute but this has now been reduced to 100 lashes.

The case of Ms Ashtiani, a 43 mother of two, has captured a great deal of media attention for the plight of many women convicted under the harshest moral issues dealt with in Shariah law.  It raises the question of how involved we as a worldwide community of people should be involved in the laws of individual nations. Clearly the possible execution of anyone for adultery is abhorrent to most people in the West does that give us the right to condemn others for their beliefs? Personally I believe it is important that  Iran is allowed to decide for itself freely and democratically but I do fully support the work of human rights groups.

What is your opinion? Leave a comment below.


  1. it's unfortunate to see the punishments taken against these women, and as much as we can hear and speak about it, those with criticism have to find a solution.

    i think the solution takes more than just asking such governments to stop, and pressure from other sovereignties do not help too much. instead, we have to learn and experience their culture. otherwise, to them, we are only speaking without knowledge.

    of course, i'm sure human rights organizations have taken many of these steps. here's to hoping they succeed in the end.

  2. I do think in many instances yes outside pressure can absolutely be useless, like in North Korea for example and Ms Ashtiani blaming Western media for publicising the case wont do anything to boost the reputation of Western powers in Iran however it can work in some ways. It is causing a slight change of mind by Iran but yes I think cultural understanding is very important overall.