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Professor Saeed Rahnema on Iranian woman's sentence to die by stoning

Professor Saeed Rahnema on Iranian woman's sentence to die by stoning

Professor Saeed Rahnema in the Department of Political Science spoke to the The Globe and Mail July 12 about the reasons why stoning is a rarely used form of execution in Iran (see below). The sentencing of an Iranian woman accused of adultery to die by stoning has garnered international media attention in recent weeks:

In a push back against international efforts to save a 45-year-old woman from death by stoning, an Iranian justice official insists that “Western media propaganda” will not prevent him from carrying out the execution as soon as he gets final judicial approval.

Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the judiciary chief of Iran’s East Azerbaijan, says the crimes committed by Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani were so heinous that “if she had only cut [off] the head of her husband, it would have been better than what she has done.”

. . .

Government officials, celebrities and ordinary citizens from around the world have joined international human-rights organizations in a growing campaign against the stoning sentence given to Ms. Mohammadi Ashtiani. She was first convicted on May 15, 2006, of having an “illicit relationship” with two men, for which she received 99 lashes. At a subsequent trial of a man accused of murdering her husband, Ms. Mohammadi Ashtiani was charged with “adultery while being married.” It is for that crime that she has been sentenced to death by stoning.

. . .

On the weekend, Mohammad Javad Larijani, the head of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, lashed out against the international campaign to spare Ms. Mohammadi Ashtiani, while pointing out that stoning is rarely used.

“The commotion that the Western media has started in connection with this case will not affect our judges’ views,” he said, noting that the West is fixated on the form of capital punishment, not on the crimes. “The execution of Islamic religious laws on [such things as] death by stoning, hijab and inheritance, has always faced their audacious animosity and, basically, any issue which hints of religious law is always opposed by them,” he said.

He also stresses that stonings are infrequent. “I must point out that, first of all, the punishment of death by stoning exists in our constitution but the esteemed judges issue this verdict on very rare occasions.”

It’s rarely used for a reason, says Saeed Rahnema, a professor of political science at York University in Toronto. “It’s not at all popular with the people of Iran, and it gives the country an international black eye.”

“The regime is really trying to rein in their number,” Mr. Rahnema said.

The sentence is so unpopular, he added, “the authorities often resort to a rent-a-crowd to carry them out … promising the 20 or 30 people heavenly rewards, as well some financial inducement.”

The complete article is available on the Globe and Mail's Website.

Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, with files courtesy of YFile– York University’s daily e-bulletin.