Today: D.C. and Other Major Cities Hold Protest Against Execution of Iranian Woman

Washington, D.C. is among the many cities scheduled to hold protests against the execution of Sakineh Mohammedie Ashtiani this afternoon. I found out on Twitter that the protests are set for 30 cities including New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Washington, D.C. and Ottawa. While executions happen quite often in Iran, these protests are meant to remind people that the fight for her life isn’t over. Although government officials said they will not stone her, she will still likely be executed–probably by hanging.

On July 2, groups held protests against her stoning outside of the Pakistan Embassy (where the Iranian interests section is located. They don’t have their own embassy because the U.S. and Iran don’t have diplomatic relations).

Today, protests will take place between 12-3 (yes…in the heat) at the Pakistan Embassy. I would have gone to check it out if I wasn’t at home in Indiana visiting family. But if anyone is there…send along pictures! For more info, visit the International Committee Against Stoning.

Some of the comments on stuck out to me because of how these people spoke with conviction about adultery in the U.S. and the media’s portrayal of this issue. Someone wrote:

“Hey, did you know America has the highest amount of murders, lawsuits, and broken relationships due to adultery. This is a perfect example of why though, because you all, along with our government, condone it like it is giving change to the poor or something. Iran, and the other Muslim cultures have virtually no adultery, and this is why. You find a plan or law, and if it works to upgrade the overall moral, you stick with it.”

While many murders do happen from cheating husbands and wives, that doesn’t forgive the execution of people as a law for adultery. Another commenter wrote that the international community should stay out of this because she is being executed for the “murder of her husband” rather than adultery. As I noted in a previous post that she was accused of being an accomplice in her husband’s murder, and in the U.S., a person can be sentenced by being associated with the murder of someone. However, in her case, she was also additionally punished for the adultery and received almost 100 lashes in front of her son.

Another commenter raised a question that many rights groups and governments debate when justifying their involvement overseas:

“We have no right to interfere,in any way, in what is clearly an Iranian internal matter.We need to learn to keep our noses out of things that do not concern us.We have no right to tell another country how to govern themselves.”

This is the belief of many people in the international community on America’s involvement in the world. But when a tragedy strikes or a group is in need of aid, people turn to the U.S. and say “why didn’t you help? Why didn’t you respond?!”

While I agree–countries cannot force laws upon others–I do think there are certain universal, basic, fundamental human rights that cross borders. And those who subscribe to those rights (rights to safety, equality, expression, belief, etc) should hold others less fortunate accountable. That’s where the international community can apply pressure to stand up for the voiceless.

Human Rights Groups and State Department Speak Out Against Stoning

Photo found on Amnesty International website

Human rights groups and concerned supporters have launched a campaign against the execution of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, asking the Iranian government to revisit her case and revise their execution practices.

According to a recent Amnesty International report, the human rights organization made a new call last Wednesday to the Iranian government to immediately halt all executions and desist all death sentences. The group has recorded 126 executions in Iran from the start of this year to June 6.

Ashtiani, a 43 year-old Iranian mother of two, faces “imminent” execution by stoning for confessing to adultery in 2006. According to a CNN report, Ashtiani was forced to confess after receiving 99 lashes after her arrest, but she later retracted her statements and denied any wrongdoing.

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran also issued appeals to the Iranian Judiciary to halt her execution and to the Iranian parliament to abolish stoning as a form of execution.

When a woman is executed by stoning in accordance with Sharia law, she is typically buried at her breasts while men are buried to their waists, and bystanders are invited to throw stones until she dies. An April, 2010 Amnesty International report said that according to Article 104 in Sharia law, with reference to adultery, the stones used should “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes, nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.” Ashtiani was sentenced to be stoned with medium-sized stones so she would die at a slower rate.

The CNN report also indicated that Ashtiani could be stoned “at any time,” and often times, prisoners are not informed of their execution until the last minute.

The Campaign also reported that Ashtiani was in an abusive marriage that led to the murder of her husband by another man she became involved with. She and the man were sentenced to ten years in prison, but the judges decided to also punish her, without any evidence, for having an extramarital relationship with a man.

The International Committee Against Stoning has also launched an international campaign in support of Ashtiani and other Iranian women who could face death by stoning. The group, led by Mina Ahadi, is organizing worldwide protests, inviting people to write letters and providing lists of executions by stoning committed by the Iranian government.

Philip Crowley, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, said in a State Department press conference that the U.S. does not support the disproportional laws that punish women by death for committing adultery.

“We have grave concerns that the punishment does not fit the alleged crime,” he said. “And for a modern society such as Iran, we think this raises significant human rights concerns, and disproportionate treatment of women in terms of how society metes out justice.”

Below, listen to Mina Ahadi’s interview with CNN.

Last year, the film The Stoning of Soraya M. was released about a woman who was stoned for allegedly committing adultery in an Iranian village. It is now banned in Iran for its criticism of the Iranian legal system.