A ‘different culture’ doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when one is stoned

In September 2011, Mina Ahadi was invited to give a speech at the TEDxESPM conference in São Paulo, Brazil on her campaign against stoning and execution. In her speech she talks about her work and the campaign to save Iran stoning case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Mina’s first husband was executed in the same prison that Sakineh awaits her death by stoning sentence. Read on…

I am Mina Ahadi from Iran. About 5 years ago a boy called me from Iran. He was 17/18 years old and said: “Is this human rights office?” And I replied: “Yes, I deal with human rights.” He said: “Are you Mina Ahadi?” and I said: “Yes, what can I do to help you?” And he said: “My mother is going to be stoned to death. Mina, you have to help me.” I took a deep breath and said: “Who is your mother?” And he replied: “Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.” I asked: “Where is your mother?” And he answered: “In Tabriz prison.”

I had to take several breaths for Sakineh sits in the prison where my husband was executed. That’s when I said: “Okay, wait, I’m writing down the name, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and I promise you Sajjad, I’ll help you. I won’t allow your mother to be stoned to death.”

He called again on 2nd June 2010. He said: “Mina, now it’s time. In 2 weeks my mother will be stoned to death.” I said: “You and your sister Saideh (17 years old) have to write a letter and we will translate this letter and I’ll ask people all over the world: Are we going to let this woman be stoned to death in Iran? What are we going to do about it?”

They wrote the letter and we at the International Committee against Stoning translated it into German and English and published it on the Internet. After two days, people, ordinary people from all over the world, had translated it into 30 languages and we have reached millions of people through this campaign. We managed to organise demonstrations in 110 cities. All these people stood up and did something against this barbarism.

I want to explain here why my husband was executed in Iran in the very same prison Sakineh languishes in. I was a medical student in Iran; I was born in a small village named Abhar and because of religion I was forced to go out from the age of nine dressed in a chador. I wanted to play. I asked my mother why my brother could and I couldn’t and the answer was always: because we are Muslims, because we are a Muslim family. Then I thought, I’m going to go to a big city, and then I’ll have my freedom. There I was allowed to study medicine at the University of Tabriz. The first day when I entered the university I threw away my chador and wore a mini skirt and went out. And I thought: Okay, now I have my freedom. At the University of Tabriz (back then it was the Shah’s time) I slowly realised that it’s not a free life because we were for example not allowed to discuss many things or to think. We were not allowed to read Maxim Gorky, and of course, reading Marx was also prohibited. I participated in a revolution against the Shah’s regime. Back then, we young people were on the streets but we didn’t have the chance to give reports of our revolution. There was no Facebook or Twitter then. I heard from the BBC that our revolution was an ‘Islamic’ revolution, and I laughed. Our leader was supposed to be a man named Khomeini. When we heard that name from the BBC, we all laughed. But this was no laughing matter, because the Islamists gained power in Iran. From the beginning I was against the Islamic regime of Iran too. [Read more...]