On . . . June 29, 2006, a court in the Islamic Republic of Iran sentenced Malak Ghorbany, a 34-year-old mother of two, to a brutal death by stoning after finding her guilty of adultery. . . . Two men who were found guilty of murder in the same court were only given jail sentences of six years. . . . The size of the stones used during the execution are required to be . . . not so large that they would kill a woman too quickly, nor so small that they would fail to cause serious injury or pain . — A letter, unanswered, to George W. Bush from John Whitehead, head of the Rutherford Institute, one of the nation’s premier civil liberties organizations. The part about the stones is from Article 104 of the Iranian penal code.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran, has become an international celebrity, brandishing his nuclear program—and his yearning to wipe Israel off the face of the earth. He is visited by such personages as U.N. secretary-general Kofi Annan and Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes. In their conversations with him, neither has asked the swashbuckling leader about “honor killings” by the government of women charged with having committed “adultery.”
As human rights lawyer Lily Mazahery, president of the Legal Rights Institute reports, “in 99 percent of these cases, the accused women have received no legal representation because, under the Shariah legal system, their testimony is at best worth only half the value of the testimony of men.”
And there is no single executioner. These are mass murders by stone-throwing members of the community, having the kind of festive time common among American mass lynchers of blacks, when the murderers brought their children to join in the fun. In Iran too, kids are present to witness the sinners’ redemption.
The capital crime of adultery, Mazahery has explained to World Net Daily, “includes [under Shariah law] any type of intimate relationship between a girl/woman and a man to whom she is not permanently or temporarily married. Such a relationship does not necessarily mean a sexual relationship.
“Further, charges of adultery are routinely issued to women/girls who have been raped—and they are sentenced to death.” (Their unpardonable crime is to have been raped.)
During the continuous coverage in this country of Iran’s nuclear threat and its crucial support of terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, there has been scarcely any mention of this horrifying dimension of the culture of Iran: sangsar, the stoning to death of women.
Mazahery, the Persian American lawyer whose mission has long been to save Iranian women from this and other brutal treatment, tells me that sangsar, “dating back to the dark ages,” was, for a time, suspended by the pre-revolutionary regime due to pressure from international human rights organizations, combined with protests from civilized persons around the world. But when the mullahs took over in the 1979 revolution, they brought back Shariah law, and when this president came to power, he reinstituted public stonings, as a “religious principle,” against women.
As of this writing, President Ahmadinejad is on his way to address the United Nations in New York. There will be heavy press coverage. Will any reporter ask him about the stoning of women in his country—and the particular case of Malak Ghorbany? And while former “moderate” Iranian president Mohammad Khatami has been in the United States—lecturing at Harvard, among other prestigious venues—I know of no reporter who has asked him to discourse on the stoning of women under his successor.
Mazahery, who was recently invited by students and faculty to respond to Khatami at Harvard, has written and circulated an online petition, “Save Malak Ghorbany From Death by Public Stoning,” addressed to Kofi Annan; the U.N.’s commissioner of human rights; and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran; as well as to the head of its judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahroudi.
So far, there have been more than 11,000 signatories—from around the world, including this country, China, and most tellingly, Iran. For Iranians to sign took much courage. As Ali Afshari and Akbar Atri—founding members of Iranian Students for Democracy and Human Rights—revealed in the September 2–3 Wall Street Journal:
“Satellite dishes are being collected to cut off public access to the . . . news of the global community. Women’s groups, labor organizations, and student groups are not permitted even the more peaceful acts of protest.”
As a result, however, of growing international concern about Malak Ghorbany, partly from Mazahery’s petition, the Islamic regime has stayed her execution until she gets a new trial. But as Mazahery points out, Iran has used this three-card-monte trick before. As she told World Net Daily: “It is quite possible the Islamic regime will schedule a rush sham trial and reissue the same sentence [and] even with a new trial, Ghorbany would still receive the same sentence or be sentenced to death by public hanging instead.”
The pressure to save Malak Ghorbany must continue. The direct link to Malak’s petition, where you can sign on, is petitiononline.com/Malak/petition.html. For related topics, and to link to videos of actual public stonings, click on savemalak.googlepages.com/home.
Keep in mind, Mazahery warns,”There are no scheduled dates for such killings in Iran. A prisoner can be executed at any time with little or no notice at all. Needless to say, that makes matters that much more complicated and urgent in these types of cases.”
I shall return to this ongoing story and to Mazahery, whose own personal story illuminates the barbarism of the rulers of Iran—where scores of student dissenters are in prison and, as Ali Afshari and Akbar Atri report, “the noose has been tightened around the neck of writers, journalists, and bloggers in the past few months.”