Iran's barbaric new laws

In other countries there are pre-election promises. In Iran there is new, barbaric legislation

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A demonstration in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
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Wahied Wahdat-Hagh
On 7 June 2013 11:36

Iranian lawmakers have legislated stoning as part of the new Islamic penalty law. The decision, taken by the Guardian Council after nine months’ examination of the draft proposal, means that stoning has now moved from Islamic to State law.

The criminal law had been discussed over the past six years inside various state institutions. Now it is official. Stoning now forms part of the new version of the Penal Code, Article 132, paragraph 3: A man or a woman can be stoned to death for multiple extramarital affairs.

Additionally, in article 225 of the new criminal code, it is stated that a man and a woman can be stoned to death with the approval of the judge, who may decide if other forms of executions are appropriate. The accused person may also be punished with 100 lashes.

The barbaric legislation was formulated with attention to detail in mind. The accused person will be subject to 100 lashes after the first instance of ‘illegitimate’ sexual intercourse. After he or she is caught several times, stoning becomes a legal measure. If they are ‘fortunate’, they will get away with being executed by other, less brutal, means.

According to the human rights organisation Justice for Iran, there are currently a number of detainees threatened with stoning: Ashraf Kolhari, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, Mariam Baqersadeh, Kheiriye Walania, Iran Eskandari, Kobra Babai, Sariye Ebadi, Rahim Mohammadi, Mohammad Ali Navid Khamami and Naghi Ahmadi. Justice for Iran also refers to statistics from Amnesty International which show that 77 people have been stoned since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Unsurprisingly, it is assumed that the actual number of stoning is much higher.

In terms of Islamic criminal law in Iran, new changes have legalised once again the execution of minors as well as amputation as a legitimate punishment.

Under the new law girls are criminally responsible from the age of eight years and nine months. Classical Islamic law dictates that girls of nine years of age are criminally responsible, by reference to the lunar calendar. But since Iran uses the solar calendar, religious devouts will sentence girls of the former age. Zealots will be authorised to amputate the arms of a child, though boys have a little longer to bask in innocence and are not criminally responsibile until the age of 15.

The new, and most repressive, law Iran has had over the last 34 years – and probably in its 7000 year history – is not without its escape routes. Murder can be atoned by the payment of blood money, for example. Unfortunately, the blood of women is worth half as much as that of men.

The desire to control society extends through to the political sphere in the new code of law too. Article 286 states that a person who “threatens national security” can be executed; ominously, as far as the authorities are concerned, any dissenter, whether he or she is a human or women’s rights activist, or a Bahai, can be classed as a threat to national security.

Although apostasy is not mentioned in the new law, judges are permitted to practice the Islamic law of apostasy, if they think it is “wise”. In reality, they don’t need an apostasy law if any dissenter can be classified as a “threat to national security.” In recent years human rights activists, dissidents, and dissenters have been sentenced to prison terms of between three and nine years in accordance with this classification.

In other countries there are pre-election promises. In Iran there is new, barbaric legislation.

But then these repressive laws are a kind of promise too: a promise that nothing will change, and that he or she who thinks and believes in another way should expect the worst punishments of execution.

Wahied Wahdat-Hagh is a Fellow at the European Foundation for Democracy

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