‘Sanitised’ or not it must be stopped

In defence of Teresa Lewis and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
By Maryam Namazie

41 year old Teresa Lewis was executed on Thursday 23 September in the US state of Virginia despite having learning difficulties. Her case made headlines because she was the first woman to be put to death in the US for five years and in Virginia for nearly a hundred years.

The case of Teresa Lewis and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani may seem different at face value – most obviously in the method of execution. Teresa was executed by lethal injection. Sakineh on the other hand has been sentenced to death by stoning (a sentence which has still not been revoked but merely put on hold due to the public outcry). Teresa was executed for conspiring to murder her husband and stepson whilst Sakineh has been sentenced to death for adultery.

But there are far more similarities than differences here.

Teresa was executed whilst the hitmen who actually killed her husband and stepson were given life in prison. Sakineh too has been sentenced to death by stoning whilst her alleged lover has not. Moreover, after the international campaign in her defence, the Islamic regime in Iran has tried to stitch Sakineh up with trumped up murder charges in order to facilitate her execution whilst the man who has been convicted of murdering her husband is not on death row.

There are more but the starkest similarity is fundamentally in the barbarism of execution whatever form it may take. Whilst stoning is obviously the most brutal form, Teresa’s last moments will enrage any decent human being – even with the ‘sanitisation’ of capital punishment in the US and ‘niceties’ such as a legal minimum IQ (Teresa’s was two points above it), a last meal of choice (Teresa had chicken and chocolate cake) and evening executions so that death row inmates can spend all day with their loved ones before they are killed… The term ‘capital punishment’ is itself a sanitised name for what is in effect premeditated state murder.

Read the below account of a media witness to see what I mean:

“Teresa Lewis, wearing a light blue shirt, dark blue pants and flip flops, came through the door at 8:55, ushered by guards in blue uniforms who held her elbows. She looked toward us with a gaze that seemed dazed and anxious.

‘Within moments she was flat on the gurney. Several guards strapped her down. I never saw her face again.

‘At 8:58, officials drew a dark blue curtain across the window. Behind it, they attached the intravenous lines. We could not see or hear anything. Perry wept.

‘At 9:09 the curtain opened. Teresa’s arms were now extended from her body with strips of white tape holding the tubes in. The warden asked Teresa if she had any final words. Her speech sounded garbled at first, but officials later told us she asked if Kathy Clifton was there.

‘Then she said clearly: “I just want Kathy to know that I love you and I’m very sorry.”

‘The chemicals began flowing. In Virginia, the first is Thiopental Sodium, which renders the person unconscious. The second, Pancuronium Bromide stops breathing. The final chemical, Potassium Chloride, stops the heart.

‘Teresa Lewis’s feet and toes twitched, then they stopped.’

Undoubtedly, the state of Virginia’s murder of Teresa Lewis is far worse that anything she had or could have done, however heart wrenching the loss of her victims. She had a learning disability; the state of Virginia has no such excuse.

More importantly, unlike Teresa, it ‘publicly, with prior notice, on behalf of society, with the utmost legitimacy and ruthlessness, decide[d] to murder [her], and announce[d] the date and time of the event.’

Of course some will say Teresa got what she deserved. But justice has (or at least should have) nothing to do with retribution. We don’t allow the rape of rapists, or the burning down of the houses of arsonists, do we? Also the ‘eye for an eye’ argument ignores the reality that capital punishment is meted out for many different offences depending on time and place. In today’s Iran, for example, there are 130 offences punishable by death under Sharia law including apostasy, heresy, blasphemy, homosexuality…

What is painstakingly clear about Teresa’s execution or the stoning sentence of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is that execution by a state is never about justice – whatever its justifications. And it is always about putting people in their places and creating a climate of intimidation and fear, albeit in different forms depending on whether it takes place in the US, China or Iran.

In the end, the ‘machinery of death’ as Teresa’s lawyer has called it took yet another life. And by doing so further diminished rather than elevated the value of human life.

And ‘sanitised’ or not – it has to be stopped. Full stop.

Sajjad Asks Municipalities around the World to Help Free His Mother

PR 76
September 29, 2010

In a letter that Sajjad Ghaderzadeh has written on September 26, he has sought support from municipalities worldwide in demanding his mother’s release.

In this letter, Sajjad thanks individuals and organizations who have worked to save his mother. He has also written, “I thank the municipalities of Rome and Florence in Italy, for they endeavored to save my innocent mother. I ask all municipalities in the different capitals of the world, in a unified effort, to protest against the Islamic Republic’s sentence against my innocent mother, and to demand a commutation of the execution and stoning sentence against my mother.”

We hope that municipalities respond to Sajjad’s request, and that we witness a broad movement by municipalities throughout the world.

Sakineh is still under threat of execution, and judiciary officials have said that they will make a final decision in Sakineh’s case in 2 weeks.

The International Campaign to Save Sakineh must continue with full force: the Islamic Republic should be pressured more intensively until it is forced to free Sakineh.

International Committee against Stoning
International Committee against Execution

In support of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh

To Labor Organizations Worldwide:

On June 12, Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a labor- and children’s rights activist, was arrested. His ribcage and his leg were injured during a brutal beating administered upon his arrest, and he continues to suffer from intense pain in his leg. He has been held in solitary confinement in Ward 209 of Evin Prison for 4 months. His family was informed that bail had been set at US$100,000 dollars. A month has passed since Behnam’s family informed the prison authorities that they had raised the money to post bail, but they have received no further response and Behnam remains imprisoned.

In protest against his solitary confinement, against the constant pressure and torture, and against the uncertainty related to whether he will be released on bail or not, Behnam has gone on hunger strike.

In a letter dated September 30, 2010, Behnam’s brother, Moussa Ebrahimzadeh, declared on behalf of himself and his family an international campaign to release Behnam from prison, calling on all freedom-loving people of the world to support them and to put pressure on the Islamic Republic to free Behnam as soon as possible.

We ask for the broadest international support for this call, and for efforts to free all imprisoned workers.

The letter from the brother of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh is attached.

Campaign to free JAILED WORKERS in IRAN
Shahla Daneshfar ,0044-77798 98968
Bahram Soroush, 0044-7852 338334
30 September, 2010

From brother of jailed Iranian trade unionist to people of the world:

Behnam Ebrahimzadeh has gone on hunger strike. Help us save him!

Behnam (Asad) Ebrahimzadeh is an Iranian worker. He is a workers’ rights, children’s rights and human rights activist. It is almost 4 months now that he has been languishing in solitary confinement in the notorious Ward 209 of Evin Prison in Tehran for those same ‘crimes’. Although a $100,000 bail has been set for his release, the authorities refuse to release him and keep giving us the runaround.

Behnam was arrested on June 12, 2010. He was so badly beaten at the time of the arrest that his rib cage and leg were injured, and he is still suffering from a severely sore leg.

Behnam’s family visited him today, Sept. 30, and learned that he had started a hunger strike since yesterday, protesting the solitary confinement and the prison officials’ refusal to provide medical care for his leg. This is worrisome news and we are deeply concerned. His life is in danger and we must do something.

Behnam objects to the bail, saying he has not done anything to deserve imprisonment and to have to pay bail to be released. We, on the other hand, have repeatedly contacted the prison officials to let them know that we have the bail money ready in order to get Behnam released. But the officials refuse to give us a straight answer. All they say is, ‘we will contact you’, i.e. evading and dragging. Meanwhile Behnam continues to languish in solitary confinement. Some weeks they cancel even his family visitation. That, in turn, adds to his wife’s and children’s worries and the pressures they live under. The authorities are just wasting time while my brother’s life is in danger. We need the help of all the workers, of all the people, across the world to rescue Behnam.

I, Moosa Ebrahimzadeh, Behnam’s brother, write this letter on behalf of our family and Behnam’s family. We are concerned. We have no alternative but to fight for the freedom of Behnam, as well as of all other jailed activists, with everything in our power. We, therefore, expect you, the workers and all concerned people of the world, to help us. All Behnam did was struggle for a dignified life for all. Let us save him. Behnam and all other jailed workers, as well as others who are in jail for their justified, humanitarian demands, must be freed immediately.

I, for my part, thank all those who have so far carried out protests to free Behnam and other jailed workers. I also hereby announce my own campaign for Behnam’s freedom. Please support me in promoting this campaign.

Moosa Ebrahimzadeh
Sept. 30, 2010

Translation: Jamshid Haadiaan, Free Them Now! Campaign http://free-them-now.blogspot.com/

Sharia law is important but not for the reasons given by Abu Dhabi’s king

During a tour of Birmingham, the Abu Dhabi King’s special adviser Ali Al Hashmi declared that that the King has “great faith” in Nuneaton’s Sharia court, which according to the Coventry Telegraph hears cases on family law, forced marriages, charity law, and inheritance disputes. He went on to highlight the importance of Sharia law in Britain.

As One Law for All has revealed in its recent report; Sharia Law in Britain; A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights, Sharia courts like the one in Nuneaton are important for very different reasons than the ones stated by the King’s advisor. Far from being the first, the Nuneaton court is one of many legislating mysogyny and discrimination and violating fundamental human rights. Under Sharia law, custody of children is automatically granted to the father at a preset age, regardless of the welfare of the child. In inheritance disputes, females inherit only half of the male members of their family. Also a woman’s testimony is only considered half of a man’s.

One Law for All will continue to challenge the existence of these courts until they are disbanded.

All citizens must have equality before the law and not be relegated to parallel religious legal systems that deny fundamental rights and freedoms available to 21st century citizens.

For more information contact:
Anne Marie Waters
Maryam Namazie
Spokespersons
One Law for All
www.onelawforall.org.uk

The Danger of Execution Is Still Hanging Over Sakineh’s Head

PR 75
September 27, 2010

Mohsen Ejaei, spokesperson of the Judiciary power of the Islamic Republic of Iran, announced today, September 27, 2010, that Sakineh was sentenced to stoning as well as execution [for the fabricated murder charge invented by the regime], and that the punishment for murder [execution, most likely by hanging] takes priority over the punishment for adultery [stoning].

It is necessary to recall that on their recent trip to New York, Ahmadinejad and Mashaai, his Vice-President, had announced that a stoning sentence has never been handed down in Sakineh’s case.

We have previously published documents regarding Sakineh’s case in Tabriz court that clearly show there was never a trial in which Sakineh was accused of murder. After the pressure created by the international campaign against Sakineh’s stoning, the Islamic Republic’s judiciary officials stole all relevant documents and case files [regarding the murder of Sakineh's husband] in order to be able to announce that Sakineh has been sentenced to execution [on the fabricated murder charge].

Every time they reiterate Sakineh’s punishment, it puts a devastating psychological pressure on Sakineh’s children, and consumes them with worry. Sajjad, in a new call to the whole world, has asked for his mother to be saved. We once again emphasize the necessity of a powerful continuation of the international effort to save Sakineh.

The International Committee against Stoning
The International Committee against Stoning

September 27, 2010

From Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani
To 27 European Countries:

Greetings to all officials in European countries,

Perhaps I am not in a position to write a letter to 27 European and Western countries, but what can I do? I have no other hope but you, dear ones. I have no more tears to shed. The only thing I have left is a lump in my throat. I only hope that God helps me in writing this letter. I have lost my father, and now this government wants to take our mother from me and my sister for a crime that she has not committed.

You all know that my mother is innocent and has spent five years languishing in a cold black pit. For a moment, I put myself in my mother’s place and I imagine myself behind those prison bars, living the nightmare of waiting for death by stones. Imagine it for yourself. Wouldn’t life be a horror if, each time you shut your eyes to sleep, you were jolted awake with the slightest sound, fearful of hearing the words: “It is time to dig the hole for Sakineh to be stoned”? Isn’t it horrendous that for five years, my sister and I haven’t had a peaceful night’s rest? The Islamic Republic has taken our breath, and before I lose it, I wanted to write this letter to you, to ask for your help.

I don’t care about myself, but I do care for my sister and my mother. I want them to live and be happy. And I sincerely tell the Islamic Republic: if you have some need for retribution, bring it down on me! Arrest me, and free my mother so that she can hold my sister to her bosom. The truth is that I have not lost all my hope yet, as long as you politicians, you the mass media, you the humanitarians, you all the people of the world, and our lawyer, Mr. Houtan Kian, are still behind us. Yet I fear the day when the telephone rings only to hear a voice telling us, “Your mother has been executed.” From that moment, the lives of my sister and I would never be the same.

At that moment, I will again put on the same black shirt that I wore when my father died, this time for my mother. I tell you these words from the bottom of our hearts: I want the whole world to rush to our help. I want the 27 European countries to respond to this letter before the Islamic Republic has executed the sentence against our mother. I humbly thank you all.

Sajjad Ghaderzadeh,
Son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Complaint to OFCOM for BBC Sunday Morning Live’s bias against Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

To OFCOM

I am writing to complain about BBC Sunday Morning Live’s factually incorrect statements on a 5th September programme entitled “Is it Right to Condemn Iran for Stoning?”

The principal reason for my complaint is statements made by Susanna Reid which were factually false and which gave the impression that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is not to be stoned and that stoning does not take place in Iran (or is rare). She said that no stonings have taken place since the 2002 moratorium; in fact, 17 stonings have occurred since this time. Indeed, Amnesty International stated very recently that eight men and three women are awaiting stoning at present and that since 2006 at least six people have been put to death in this way.

Ms Reid also said that Sakineh Ashtiani is facing execution for murder rather than adultery despite court documents proving that Sakineh was sentenced to death for adultery and was acquitted of murder.

All of this is clearly contrary to the BBC Charter, which states (6.1): “The BBC shall be independent in all matters concerning the content of its output, the times and manner in which this is supplied, and in the management of its affairs.”

This was compounded by the fact that the programme excluded me from the discussion, though I had been invited to join the debate via webcam; instead, the programme included only two supporters of the stoning and/or execution via webcam.

Since international protests have so far saved the life of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, it is all the more vital that accurate information be provided to the public on her case.

Please see my initial letter to BBC’s Sunday Morning Live and their inadequate response here.

Given that the programme has refused to supply corrections to their viewers, I ask that you look into this matter of clear media bias and misinformation.

I look forward to your response on this matter.

Sincerely

Maryam Namazie
Iran Solidarity
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
iransolidaritynow@gmail.com
www.iransolidarity.org.uk
iransolidarity.blogspot.com

Sajjad Ghaderzadeh’s letter to the UN


Dear Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban-ki Moon,

I salute you and your colleagues. More power to you all.

I hope you will listen to what I humbly present to you in this letter.

My name is Sajad Ghaderzadeh. I am the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. I know that my mother’s name is by now familiar to you. I also know that you are aware that she has been sentenced to death by stoning by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Since my mother’s sentencing we have been trying to contact the authorities of the Islamic Republic but to no avail. However, as the Iranian President is planned to deliver a speech at the General Assembly I am writing this letter hoping that you allow it to be read to the representatives of all the states. I implore you to do this for the sake of my mother as well as all others sentenced to stoning by the Islamic Republic. My hope is that through allowing this letter to be read to the heads of state, including the Iranian President, the punishment of stoning will be uprooted in Iran, my innocent mother be freed, and this will bring elation and pride to you and your colleagues.

What I have to say here is about my innocent mother who has spent the past five years behind bars in the hand of the Islamic Republic while no one in this government, especially from its judiciary, has given us any proper accounts.

I want everyone, especially Dr. Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, to know that my father’s murder case has nothing whatsoever to do with my mother’s stoning case. My father’s murderer [Mr. Isa Taheri] was, as a matter of fact, forgiven and freed by me and my sister due to our humanity and our hatred for death penalty as well as for Qesaas [the Islamic code of punishment]. The murder case was thus pronounced closed. [Besides,] it was initially reviewed separately from her stoning case in a different court at a different branch of the judiciary.

Here I have to urge you to please note that the house and the office of our lawyer, Mr. Hootan Kian, were raided and his computer, all his files, including my mother’s, and some of his other belongings were taken. Consequently, we are now appealing to that esteemed institution [the United Nations] for non-material support of the world, especially that of the governments, to save my mother’s life as well as to protect my only sister, Mr. Kian, our lawyer, and myself from dangers that threaten our lives.

I should stipulate that I have tried very hard to meet with the President of Iran but to no avail. So I have to reach him in this way. [In response] he may say that the case does not pertain to him but to the judiciary. And I will reply that as far as we are concerned the Iranian judiciary has to this point delivered nothing but lies and falsities.

I should also point out to Dr. Ahmadinejad that we have been treated most iniquitously not only by the Islamic Republic but also by its television – like, generally, its entire media – that have broadcast fake interviews with my mother. Those interviews have been extracted under conditions of extreme physical pressure and psychological as well as moral coercion, caused by using our own family which has, for reasons relevant to the Iranian culture, has disowned us. At first Mr. [Mohammad Javad] Larijani, Secretary of the High Council for Human Rights of the Judiciary of the Islamic Republic, called my mother a murderer in Shargh newspaper, and lately Mr. Kazemzadeh, Secretary of North-Western District of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, has felt at liberty to interview my mother on television.

An officer of Human Rights who defends stoning and spreads false information about the accused is, evidently, not familiar with his duties.

There is no agreement to be seen between statements made by Messrs. Larijani and Kazemzadeh on various websites after my mother’s interview. But, looking closely, you will see that [before the interview] Mr. Kazemzadeh dragged my mother to the television interview in just the way Mr. Larijani had suggested through one of the media.

I hereby declare that all official statements issued by the Islamic Republic, including those by its High Council of Human Rights, are false and my mother’s stoning sentence is still standing. The sentence has not been cancelled but, as a result of our lawyer’s appeal of 7 July 2010, just stayed.

Here I would like to inform Dr. Ahmadinejad of the inconsistencies and ambiguities in my mother’s case so that he may become aware of the mistakes made by the judiciary.

The judge in the murder case and Mr. Sharifi, the head of judiciary of Tabriz, both have stated in an interview that my mother has committed several crimes, but they cannot reveal the matter [i.e., which crimes,] to the media due to considerations of Islamic proprieties. Now, what I want to ask is, given the same considerations above, how come my mother’s case has been disclosed by Mr. Kazemzadeh in not only all the press media but also on television with my mother’s picture clearly shown?

Further, my mother has never had any prison background, while Mr. Isa Taheri [my father’s murderer], as you may investigate and find out, has so far committed three murders. However, as it is, the Islamic Republic has set him free and attributed everything to my mother. But they should know that they cannot stone or hang an innocent woman with lies and fabrications.

My mother’s stoning sentence has been handed down by two judges in Tabriz, Messrs. Amini-Shadbash and Moosavi, on the basis of their ‘knowledge’. [In addition,] the official written statement of sentencing says that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has had adulterous relationships with strange men, but there is no mention of the names of these strange men so we can know such mutual relationships have existed.

As for the statements made by the judiciary, the fact that my mother has already received the punishment of 99 lashes is completely missing from these statements. More importantly, there is no mention of my mother’s latest confessions in which she had said she had lied about everything previously.

Whenever questioned [about this case] the authorities of the Islamic Republic have responded with saying that the judges are independent. In view of the track record of the Iranian judiciary, it is, indeed, tough to believe such a claim. The question is: what are your judges independent in doing? In taking a human being’s life? In sentencing men and women to stoning for no reason? Mr. Larijani [Secretary of the High Council of Human Rights of the Judiciary] actually defends stoning saying it exists in Islamic Sharia Law. But I ask all the states in the world to show us an Aya anywhere in the Glorious Qoran which says men and women should be stoned to death. [Even if it does and] it is true, it says it should be done based on testimony of witnesses as well as evidence, and not the ‘knowledge’ of the judges of the Islamic Republic.

O you who defend Palestine, Lebanon and Pakistan, why do you not have any sense of responsibility toward your own people?

In closing, I thank all governments, Dr. Ahmadinejad, and the United Nations. I hope what I had to say will be considered noteworthy.

I hereby request the honorable President of Iran to act most expeditiously and unconditionally to free my mother. I hope the punishment of stoning will not be inflicted in this country based on the judges’ ‘knowledge’; and be wiped off the Iranian law altogether.

I thank you, Mr. Secretary General, and all heads of state very much.

Sajad Ghadererzadeh

The has been translated by Jamshid Hadian and distributed by the International Committee Against Stoning.

Larry King: Now why don’t you interview Mina Ahadi and Sajjad Ghaderzadeh?

Mina Ahadi and Maryam Namazie
24 September 2010

Larry King’s overly cordial interview with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad failed to press the head of a repressive Islamic Republic of Iran on many issues raised, including on the Iran stoning case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

When asked about the stoning case, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad replied: ‘This lady’s case has not been completely examined yet. No verdict has been issued yet. She is accused of being — of murdering her husband. And I don’t think in the world if someone is accused of murdering their husband, people would pour on the streets and rally in support of her.’ Without correcting the facts on the case, King then went on to say: ‘If they were going to stone her, they would.’ Ahmadinejad then said: ‘She has been accused of the murder of her husband. There is no verdict issued. No verdict, no sentence has been passed… And it is not about a stoning case at all. There’s no stoning sentence here at all. A person in Germany made this claim, which was untrue. Our judiciary also said it was a false statement.’

Given the public outcry against stoning, it is understandable why Ahmadinejad prefers to lie on the issue.

In fact, however, a number of government officials have confirmed and defended the stoning sentence. In an interview on 8 September, Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said that Ms Ashtiani’s stoning sentence was under review by the Supreme Court. In July 2010, Mohammad Javad Larijani, head of the Human Rights Department of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Judiciary, told IRNA state news agency that stoning is in the Islamic Republic’s constitution and therefore the law. He went on to say that Ms Ashtiani’s case has gone through the routine procedures and that there is no ambiguities surrounding it. He added that protests would not affect judges or the execution of sentences since stoning is part of the sacred Sharia of Islam. Also in July, Malek Ajdar Sharifi, the top judicial official in the province where Ashtiani was convicted, said the verdict has been halted due to humanitarian reservations and upon the order of the judiciary chief, and would not be carried out for the moment.

Furthermore, the International Committee against Stoning has provided the actual court verdict sentencing Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to death by stoning. In the Judgement (ref no. 38 – 85/6/19, dated 10 September 2006, Case reference number: 94 – 84/6 Province Criminal [Court], Reference number of the Head Penal Office: 237 – 84/11/18) the plaintiff is listed as the ‘Honourable Prosecutor of the General and Revolutionary Court of Tabriz’, the accused is listed as ‘Mrs Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, daughter of Asqar, of Tabriz address (Tabriz Prison)’ and the charge is listed as ‘Adultery [Zena-ye Mohseneh’]. Court documents can be found here.

Additionally, Ms. Ashtiani has been acquitted of murder. Even the man convicted of her husband’s murder has not been executed. In Iran, under Diyeh laws, the family of the victim can ask for the death penalty to be revoked. Ms Ashtiani’s son explains why he and his 17 year old sister spared the man’s life in an interview saying: ‘He is the father of a little girl who is three years old, who cried many tears before us. We, my sister and I, did not want to be the cause of his execution.’

Clearly the regime hopes to brand Ms Ashtiani a murderer in order to push back the immense international campaign in her defence. This, however, is unlikely given the outrage surrounding this case in particular and the barbaric practice of stoning in general. This is largely due to Ms Ashtiani’s children who pleaded for international support when she was to be imminently stoned to death and Mina Ahadi who is referred to by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a ‘person in Germany.’ Mina Ahadi accepts Ahmadinejad’s ‘accusation’ with pride.

Ms Ashtiani’s son, Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, has called on US media networks to organise a debate between him and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Larry King and Christiane Amanpour: You have interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Now why don’t you interview Mina Ahadi and Sajjad Ghaderzadeh for the truth on Ms Ashtiani’s case, stoning and the regime in Iran?

Notes:

1. You can see the video of the Larry King interview here.

2. For more information, contact:

Mina Ahadi, International Committee Against Stoning and International Committee Against Executions, minaahadi@aol.com, 0049 1775692413.

Maryam Namazie, Iran Solidarity, iransolidaritynow@gmail.com, 0044 7719166731, Iran Solidarity; Blog.

On Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lies about stoning

On Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s lies about stoning
By Farshad Hoseini

This is the second year that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presence is causing a storm of international protests.

Last year, it was primarily due to Neda Agha-Soltan’s murder in broad daylight at a Tehran protest and this year it is the Iran stoning case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Last year, under public pressure, Ahmadinejad outrageously declared that Neda had been killed by protestors rather than the regime’s own security forces. This year, he has outrageously announced that Sakineh was never sentenced to death by stoning.

The reason for his absurd claim is not that there is any truth in it but because of the massive international protest movement against stoning and executions in Iran led by the International Committee against Stoning and the International Committee against Execution.

The protest movement has condemned stoning as one of the most shameful crimes in human society – so shameful, in fact, that the leader of a regime of stoning has been forced to deny it outright! Rather than speaking from a position of power and defending Islamic rule and Sharia law, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been reduced to the weak and humiliating position of denying it altogether. This must be seen as a defeat for his regime that has stoned people for several decades and a victory for the movement against stoning.

Now is time to push forward and further expose and highlight the Islamic Republic of Iran’s crimes against humanity and demand that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his government be boycotted.

Here is some more information on stoning in Iran:

The beginning of stoning n Iran

In 1983, the contemporary Islamic Penal Code was ratified by Iran’s Islamic Assembly. Before this, however, stoning had been practiced in Iran since 1980. Based on the sources of a recently published report*, at least 10 persons were stoned to death in Iran before stoning became law as punishment for the ‘crime’ of adultery.

Amnesty International reported that 76 people were stoned in Iran from 1980 until 1989.

Mass stonings

Based on reports published by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its state media, in just one day, 15 persons including 12 women and 3 men were stoned together in a football stadium in the city of Bushehr.

Amnesty International reported that 26 people were stoned in Iran between January and May 1989.

Stoning during the Khomeini era (1980-1989)

During Khomeini’s era at least 76 people were stoned.

Stoning during the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005)

During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami, the so-called “reformist” president, at least 28 people were stoned to death and 36 people sentenced to death by stoning.

Stoning during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-2010)

At least 8 people were stoned to death and 31 people sentenced to death by stoning during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency.

Stoning of children

The youngest girl who was sentenced to death by stoning was Ms. Zihla Izadi in the city of Bukan (Iranian Kurdistan) in 2004; she was 13 at the time. At the time she said: “I’m afraid; I’m afraid, please, help. I want to go away, I want to go to my friends and I want to go to school”… Fortunately her life was saved as a result of public pressure.

The youngest girl who was stoned to death was Saeideh in the city of Zahedan in 2008. She was 14 years old.

Other outrageous forms of punishment

In late May 1990, in the city of Neyshabour (northeastern Iran), a woman charged with adultery was thrown off a 10-story building. The execution was carried out in public, and the victim died on impact.

A woman named Bamani Fekri was sentenced to stoning, the blinding of both eyes and the payment of 100 gold dinars. After the verdict was issued, she committed suicide in prison.

Those saved from stoning

The International Committee against Stoning has saved the lives of 17 person including 14 women and 3 men from stoning to death.

Contradictory statements of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s authorities on stoning

In 2002, Iran’s judiciary indicated that stoning would no longer be practiced in Iran by saying there was to be a moratorium.

But since 2003, eight people have been stoned to death, and 47 people have either been sentenced to death by stoning or the courts have upheld their stoning sentences.

In 2008, Iran’s Islamic judiciary decided to scrap the punishment of stoning in draft legislation submitted to the Islamic Assembly for approval. But since then, 5 people have been stoned in 2008 and 2009 and 15 people have been handed stoning sentences.

As of June 2009, Iran’s Islamic Assembly has been in the process of reviewing and revising the Islamic penal code to omit stoning as a form of punishment. But since then, 1 man has been stoned to death in 2009 and 11 people have been sentenced to death by stoning.

Note: These are only the cases for which documented evidence exists; it is certain that the actual numbers are higher.

* The report published by the International Committee against Stoning in August 2010 was written by Farshad Hoseini and is entitled “List of known cases of death by stoning sentences in Iran (1980-2010).” The report can be read here.

For more information, contact:
Farshad Hoseini
farshadhoseini@yahoo.com
Tel: 31681285184

First photo of Sajjad, Sakineh’s 22 year old son

This is the first photo of Sajjad, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s 22 year old son. He is with Hatun Kian, Sakineh’s lawyer. This photo may be used by the media without permission. Credit, however, must be given to the International Committee against Stoning. A new handwritten letter from Sajjad in Persian follows.

Is this United Against Fascism’s official position?

I was just told that the lead spokesperson for Leicester UAF has responded on Facebook with the below in response to being asked why they marched in support of Sharia Law in London in June 2010:

‘If Jews were the primary target of the EDL and solidarity with them meant standing with hardcore zionists, would that mean there was total confusion within UAF on Palestinian rights, or simply that solidarity with groups who are faced with persecution by fascists is not conditional upon their acceptance of a certain political or religious line? Indeed in the resistance to the Nazis during WW2, communists and zionists often united on that very basis’.

Here is my brief response, which I can’t post on Facebook as it has blocked me from sending messages because I posted less than ten posts on Iran Solidarity, Save Sakineh and other campaign sites on the protests against Ahmadinejad’s visit to the UN. Here it is:

It is this sort of warped logic that puts ‘progressive’ groups in bed with fascists – albeit the Islamic kind. Basically this logic sees people as being one and the same with far-Right reactionary organisations and movements. Jew=Zionist or Muslim=Islamist. Muslim=Islamic regime of Iran… I suppose given this sad logic, I should have joined forces with the BNP after the terrorist attack on July 7 in London!?!? British=British Nationalist Party? In the world according to the likes of the UAF, Muslims, and people living under Sharia law are one and the same with the regimes and the Islamic movement that is repressing them and that they are struggling against.

In any case, is this the UAF’s official policy? We are still waiting for a response on our letter on your position: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/uaf-letter/.

How pathetic if this is it.

Urgent Action: Call on UN General Assembly to condemn stoning, demand Sakineh’s release and boycott Ahmadinejad’s government

Urgent Action:
Call on UN General Assembly to condemn stoning, demand Sakineh’s release and boycott Ahmadinejad’s government
September 22, 2010

Mahmoud Ahamdinejad’s address to the UN General Assembly yesterday was in effect boycotted by delegates. Very few turned up to hear him speak and even less understood what he had to say as there was no translation.

But this is no where enough.

The UN General Assembly must issue an emergency resolution to condemn stoning and call for the immediate release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Moreover, like Ahmadinejad’s speech, his government must be boycotted. A government that still stones people to death in the 21st century must have no place in the United Nations or any other international institution or body.

In the next two days, please send out the below message to the UN. You can either email it: inquiries@un.org or post it on their website. The letter has already been signed by 40 academics, campaigners and writers and published in the Guardian.

‘We are writing to ask that the UN general assembly condemn stoning as a crime against humanity and issue an emergency resolution calling for an end to the medieval and barbaric punishment as well as the immediate release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and others sentenced to death by stoning.

‘We also ask that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not be allowed to address the general assembly and that his government be boycotted.

‘A government that still stones people to death in the 21st century must have no place in the United Nations or any other international institution or body.’

By the way, if you can, please stand in your city centre, tweet, or upload a video or photo showing your opposition to stoning and support for Sakineh. Of course if you are in NYC, please join the protests there.

Don’t forget to send in reports of your actions and protest emails and tweets to us at iransolidaritynow@gmail.com.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes
Mina Ahadi
Patty Debonitas
Maryam Namazie
International Committee against Executions
International Committee against Stoning
Iran Solidarity

Enough! On the ‘storm’ around Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani’s case

The Islamic Republic of Iran and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have raised the issue of 41 year old Teresa Lewis’ impending execution in the US to challenge the “storm” surrounding 43 year old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who has been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran.

Clearly both women must not be executed. Executions – for whatever reason – are the most deplorable form of intentional murder.

Having said that, however, there are a number of reasons why Sakineh’s impending stoning has caused such a huge public outcry.

Firstly, we have a photo of Sakineh; we know her full name, that she has had a fifth grade education, and that she ‘wants to live,’ making it extremely personal.

Her children have pleaded for help. The international campaign took off in an unprecedented manner after an open letter from Sakineh’s two children calling on people to intervene.

Who can ever forget that letter?

It said: ‘Today we stretch out our hands to the people of the whole world… Is the world so cruel that it can watch this catastrophe and do nothing about it?’

Also we – and particularly Mina Ahadi – have been campaigning against stoning for years. Mina first started working on Sakineh’s case three years ago.

Finally, stoning is the most egregious and barbaric form of execution. The law even specifies the size of stone to be used. Prior to the stoning, the bodies of the victims are washed in the same way the dead are (whilst they are alive), wrapped in a shroud, and then buried in a ditch – up to the waist for men and chest for women. They are then pelted with stones – on prison grounds or in their already dug out graves – until they are dead.

Sakineh has become the cry of 21st century humanity vis-à-vis this era’s barbarism.

Today, stoning has become the racial apartheid of this century – intolerable and unacceptable. The public are just not going to stand for stoning anymore. And as a result governments have taken heed. We know that many governments supported racial apartheid in South Africa for a very long time and only as a result of public pressure did they eventually deem racial apartheid a crime against humanity. We also know that many of the very governments criticising Iran on Sakineh’s case have had and continue to have wonderfully cosy relations with that regime despite its slaughter of an entire generation.

But that is the nature of public outcries – they change laws, they ban the intolerable, they challenge the powers that be and even bring down governments and regimes.

Sakineh’s case has caused such a storm because we want her to live.

We want to save her.

We won’t let her die.

Not because she is the only one in this situation but because she symbolises that which we will no longer tolerate.

There are many others like her – in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, China and yes the US waiting to be killed one way or the other by the state as a tool to repress and intimidate society at large.

But there are also many others like Baby P or Dua Khalil, yet it is their faces and names and stories that force us to scream enough.

Enough!

An Update on the Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani campaign

Hello

Thanks to all of you who supported the 18 September day of action in support of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and against stoning and flogging.

You can see a visual report of some of the actions here. Highlights include a rally of over 150 people in Brussels organised by Brussels humanists/secularists, MPs and Amnesty International as well as nearly 20,000 people chanting ‘stop stoning now’ at the Protest the Pope rally in London at which I spoke along with Terry Sanderson, Pragna Patel, Richard Dawkins, Johann Hari, Peter Tatchell and others.

Our next actions are on 10 October, International Day against the Death Penalty, and against Ahmadinejad’s visit to New York to address the UN General Assembly this week.

In protest to Ahmadinejad’s visit, 40 campaigners, academics and writers have called on the UN General Assembly to issue an emergency resolution calling for an end to the medieval and barbaric punishment of stoning as well as the immediate release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and all those sentenced to death by stoning. The open letter also asks that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not be allowed to address the General Assembly and that his government be boycotted. You can see the letter here.

Just recently, Ahmadinejad has said in an interview with ABC network that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani had never been sentenced to death by stoning. Her son, Sajjad, a 22 year old transport worker, has challenged him to a debate on this. In Sajjad’s letter distributed by the International Committees against Stoning and Execution, he says: ‘For peoples’ information, we will publish documents of our mother’s stoning sentence, issued by the offices that work under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, so the world can judge his words objectively.’ He goes on to ask ABC network to ‘arrange for a live broadcast discussion between Mr. Ahmadinejad and I on these issues…’ You can read his full statement here and also see copies of the actual stoning sentence here.

In Ahmadinejad’s interview he also blames: ‘someone in Germany’ for the uproar surrounding Ms Ashtiani’s case. Mina Ahadi’s response will be translated into English shortly. In her statement in Persian she ‘accepts the “accusation” with pride!’

By the way, Facebook had disabled Mina and my accounts recently right before the 18 September day of action for Sakineh and against stoning. After many letters of protest from supporters, and an open letter to Facebook founders by a number of well-known personalities, my account has been enabled again, though Mina’s has not. Please keep writing to Facebook until they enable her account as well.

Finally, please don’t forget to donate to the Save Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani campaign. Thank you for all your donations so far but we need a lot more money to be able to cover all our costs. You can donate via cheque or Paypal here. No amount is too small or too big!

Thanks again

Warm wishes

Maryam

Maryam Namazie
Iran Solidarity
BM Box 2387
London WC1N 3XX, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 7719166731
iransolidaritynow@gmail.com
www.iransolidarity.org.uk
iransolidarity.blogspot.com

Ahmadinejad and his government must be boycotted at the upcoming UN General Assembly Meeting

We, the undersigned, are writing to ask that the UN General Assembly condemn stoning as a crime against humanity and issue an emergency resolution calling for an end to the medieval and barbaric punishment as well as the immediate release of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani and others sentenced to death by stoning.

We also ask that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad not be allowed to address the General Assembly and that his government be boycotted.

A government that still stones people to death in the 21st century must have no place in the United Nations or any other international institution or body.

Signed:

Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, International Committee against Stoning and International Committee against Execution, Germany
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now and One Law for All, UK
Shahla Abghari, Women’s Rights Activist, USA
Boaz Adhengo, Project Nabuur Capital, Kenya
Ophelia Benson, Editor, Butterflies and Wheels, USA
Helle Merete Brix, Writer and Journalist, Denmark
Roy W Brown, International Humanist and Ethical Union, UN Geneva Main Representative, Switzerland
Ewa Dąbrowska-Szulc, President, Pro Femina Association, Poland
Richard Dawkins, Scientist and Author, UK
Sanal Edamaruku, President, Rationalist International, India
Sonja Eggerickx, President, International Humanist Ethical Union, Belgium
Caroline Fourest, Writer and Columnist, France
A C Grayling, Writer and Philosopher, UK
Maria Hagberg, Chairperson, Network Against Honour Related Violence, Sweden
Leo Igwe, Executive Director, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
Hope Knutsson, President, Sidmennt the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association Reykjavik, Iceland
Julia Kristeva, Président, Jury du Prix Simone de Beauvoir pour la Liberté des Femmes, France
Ghulam Mustafa Lakho, Advocate High Court of Sindh, Pakistan
Anne-marie Lizin, Senate Honorary Speaker, Belgium
Huguette Chomski Magnis, President of Mouvement Pour la Paix et Contre le Terrorisme, France
Reine Marcelis, President, Synergie Wallonie pour l’Egalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes, Belguim
Pragna Patel, Chair, Southall Black Sisters, UK
Fariborz Pooya, Director, Iranian Secular Society, UK
Hassan Radwan, Management Committee, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, UK
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner, UK
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society, UK
Michael Schmidt-Salomon, Philosopher, Writer, and Spokesman of The Giordano Bruno Foundation, Germany
Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Philosophy and Ontario Research Chair in Bioethics, Canada
Daniel Salvatore Schiffer, Philosopher and Writer, Belgium
Issam Shukri, Head, Committee for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq, Canada
Joan Smith, Writer and Human Rights Activist, UK
Annie Sugier, President, Ligue du Droit International des Femmes, France
Viviane Teitelbaum, MP and President of the Council of Women, Belgium
Giti Thadani, Writer and Filmmaker, India
Shishir Thadani, South Asian Voice, India
Richy Thompson, President, The National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, UK
Olga Trostiansky, President, Coordination Française pour le Lobby Européen des Femmes, France
Nira Yuval-Davis, Organising Group, Women Against Fundamentalism, UK
Michèle Vianès, Regards de Femmes, France
Ibn Warraq, Author, USA

Sajjad challenges Ahmadinejad to a debate

PR 72 September 19, 2010

Sajjad Ghaderzadeh, son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani:

Open letter to the honorable editors of the ABC News Network,

I challenge Mr. Ahmadinejad to a debate on your network.

This morning, Sunday, September 19, we read from various Iranian news networks that Mr. Ahmadinejad has commented about the case of our mother, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and in the face of the world has made statements that contain not a shred of truth. This saddens me, as if we have occupied ourselves and endeavored to save our mother’s life and end this horrendous nightmare out of boredom or not having anything better to do. For peoples’ information, we will publish documents of our mother’s stoning sentence, issued by the offices that work under Mr. Ahmadinejad’s presidency, so the world can judge his words objectively.

We humbly ask your honorable network to arrange for a live broadcast discussion between Mr. Ahmadinejad and I on these issues, so that he can answer questions about his statements and uncertainties regarding our mother’s case. Once again, I demand that our innocent mother be released.

Sajjad Ghaderzadeh,
son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani,
Tabriz
September 19, 2010

Here is an English translation of Sakineh’s stoning sentence.

Here are documents in Persian showing Sakineh was sentenced to stoning:

The letter was disseminated for the first time by the Committees against Stoning and Execution

International Committee Against Stoning
International Committee Against Execution
www.stopstonningnow.com
www.notonemoreexecution.org
minaahadi@aol.com
0049-177 569 2413

Translated by Mission Free Iran

We don’t want the ‘corrective supplied by religion’

Maryam Namazie’s speech at the Protest the Pope Rally
18 September 2010

We are gathered here today to show our opposition to the pope’s visit – for being state-funded but also to show our opposition to his views and the adverse role religion plays in the private and particularly the public spheres.

The pope says we need the ‘corrective supplied by religion.’

That’s exactly what we don’t need.

Look around. Everywhere we see the murder and mayhem ‘supplied by religion.’ We are not speaking of another planet or centuries past where one can get away with saying such things.

Every second of every minute of every hour of every day, we see the ‘corrective supplied by religion’ – on stem cell research, family planning, exemptions to discriminate, the segregation of our children in faith schools and the demand for parallel legal systems – including Sharia law and the Beth Dinn…

What’s even worse is Islam.

Not because Islam is worse than Christianity or other religions – fundamentally they are all the same – but because Islam has state power in many places.

Sharia law is now the most widely implemented religious law worldwide. And under Sharia law, child rape and sexual abuse is legal – what with child marriages allowed from age 9 and even younger if permitted by the girl’s male guardian. Gays are executed. Apostates and freethinkers are hung. Protestors like Neda Agha-Soltan are shot dead in broad daylight and women are sentenced to death by stoning for sex outside of marriage – like Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Today’s Islam is the like Christianity during the inquisition.

We are living today under an Islamic inquisition – one that needs another enlightenment to push it back.

A significant part of the battle against the pope and religion’s role has to be against Islamism.

But suddenly, it is deemed racism!

Isn’t it actually racist to say that ‘different’ people have ‘different’ rights and freedoms?

Suddenly it is deemed ‘moral imperialism.’

As if stoning is people’s culture. As if Sharia courts are people’s culture. Whose culture are we speaking of. The culture of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who is fighting to live or the culture of the Islamic regime in Iran that wants to stone her? The culture of the Sharia court that gives women no choices or the women who wants to live free from violence?

This is not people’s culture; it is the pope’s culture, the Islamic regime of Iran’s culture, Islamism’s culture.

It’s not yours or mine.

It’s not moral imperialism but a moral imperative to intervene on humanity’s behalf.

The pope speaks of ‘secular intolerance.’ Nothing is more intolerant than religion. It is intolerant of gays, of women, of love, of sex, of music, of your choice of clothing…

It is a crime to be a human being under Sharia law in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and even parts of Britain where many have been handed over lock stock and barrel to the Islamic movement.

As I’ve said before, it is a question of choice.

We choose humanity whilst the pope, Ahmadinejad and Islamists choose religious dogma at the expense of humanity.

The pope complains of ‘aggressive secularists.’ Well they haven’t seen anything yet.

We’re going to push them back.

We want to – demand to – live in the 21st century.

***

To mark, 18 September, a day of action in defence of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43 mother of two, who has been sentenced to death by stoning, I ask that you all chant with me: Free Sakineh Now and Stop Stoning Now.

Thank you.

****

You can see the speech here on Youtube.

To see speeches of others, including Richard Dawkins, Johann Hari, Terry Sanderson, Peter Tatchell, Pragna Patel and others, click here.

Maryam is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now, the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She is a National Secular Society Honorary Associate and the NSS’ 2005 Secularist of the Year award winner and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. She was selected one of the top 45 women of the year 2007 by Elle magazine Quebec.