Monday, 12 July 2010

Sakineh Ashtiani - The Ugly, Painful Truth?

The story below, from the well-respected Babylon & Beyond blog in the Los Angeles Times, paints a bigger picture of the circumstances of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani's crime and sentencing. A picture you might find shocking and disturbing.
This story underlines a worrying trend that I first noticed some months ago, and which appears to be gaining in popularity. This trend is the deliberate attempt to derail genuine campaigns by supplanting them with something more sensational and ultimately more "successful". It appears that in recent months, almost every time we are part way through a campaign focusing on one of the many human rights issues relating to Iran, and usually just as it begins to seem that we are finally getting some traction, a "bigger" story will crop up apparently from a reliable source. Is there an insidious intention to "trump" whatever story activists are working on? The possibility can not and should not be ruled out.
Such was the case with both Sakineh and Mohammad-Reza Haddadi. Mohammad-Reza's story, including the added drama of his sister's distraught attempt at suicide by self-immolation, was already known to those of us who have been campaigning for the past year or more. So it appears Sakineh's story was pushed harder. So hard in fact that I admit I initially felt a pang of envy seeing the massive media coverage that I long to get for other, highly deserving individual, such as Zeinab Jalian, Majid Tavakoli, and a long long list of prisoners of conscience in Iran.
But I am not the one to judge, and any publicity that shines a spotlight on the atrocious behavior of the Iranian Islamic Regime, and helps to focus world attention on their human rights violations, is welcome to me.
So like most others, and ignoring the pitiful and tenuous links to "celebrities" like Lindsay Lohan and Lady Gaga, I lent my support to the campaign to save Sakineh from stoning. I did this even though from the very start I felt that the campaign was ill-conceived and poorly articulated. But I never stopped campaigning on behalf of all the other unfortunate people languishing in Iran's prisons.
Again this weekend, another story of the brutal beating, abduction, rape and murder of a young woman named as Elnaz broke and once again whipped up attention, only to be thrown into question within a few hours. Many people today must be wondering who they can trust and when they should act. As always I can only advise you trust your instincts, question everyone and everything, and act from your heart and your best intentions.
As campaigners and activists, we need to remind ourselves that the regime in Iran has many assets at its disposal. At times it can outnumber us, certainly it can outspend us. But we can still outshine this unscrupulous adversary in the global media arena by refusing to be misled, distracted, or manipulated. We must constantly look for the truth, and never be afraid to question information, however credible the source. Our skills, our experience, our belief in ourselves, demands that we do so.
Do not allow yourself to feel that anything we do as activists has been devalued by a show of support for stories like that of Elnaz, or for half-cocked campaigns that save a woman from stoning only to deliver her to the executioner's noose. If we did nothing, only then would we have reason to to doubt ourselves.

IRAN: Judiciary official says woman to be stoned for husband's murder, not just adultery

July 12, 2010 |  8:52 am

In a surprise announcement, a judiciary official in provincial Iran said a woman who had been convicted and sentenced to stoning for adultery had also been convicted of murder.


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two in the Tabriz area, had been convicted of cheating on her late husband, apparently a murder victim, and sentenced to die by stoning, a ruling that is officially under review, according to Iranian judiciary officials.

But on Sunday, Malek Ejdar Sharifi, head of East Azerbaijan Province's judiciary, told the official Islamic Republic News Agency (in Persian): "Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has not been convicted of illicit sex only," he said. ""She has been found guilty of numerous and extremely heavy offenses. She was sentenced to capital punishment [in 2006] in the criminal court in Tabriz, the center of the province, for committing murder, manslaughter and adultery."

That's fresh news. Up until Sharifi's comments, Iranian officials and her lawyer said she was only convicted of adultery. Her lawyer, Mohammad Mostafai, said his client had been convicted of having a hand in her husband's death but that the charge played no role in the death sentence against her, especially since her children did not want to pursue the murder charge against their mother. She was handed a 10-year sentence for the murder, her lawyer said.

"In the first place, the allegation was murder," the lawyer told Babylon & Beyond. "She was accused of killing her husband, but as her children forgave her ... she was pardoned and there was no more allegation against her. But to complicate the case, the court raised the issue of adultery."

Sharifi declined to outline Ashtiani's role in her husband's death, saying it would be just too darn shocking for the public. 

"We can't express the details of her crimes due to moral and humane considerations," he said. "If the way her husband has been murdered is expressed, the brutality and insanity of this woman would be laid bare to public opinion. Her contribution to the murder of her husband was so harsh and heart-breaking that many criminologists believe that it would have been better for her to have decapitated her husband."

Sharifi confirmed that the death sentence against Ashtiani is under review but said the decision to hold off on the execution had nothing to do with the negative light the case has shined on Iran's legal system.  

"The judiciary is firm and determined in enforcing the law," he said. "Anytime the head of the judiciary gives the nod, the execution of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani will be carried out, regardless of the media hype waged by Western media."

He described "self-declared promoters of human rights in the West" as hypocrites. "They commit crimes across the world against innocent nations, including Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, but we hear no condemnation or protest from the so-called human rights bodies," he claimed.

Posted via email from lissping