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Lukanovich
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Getting Stoned in Iran

August 1, 2008
N. Lukanovich

Not the fun it should be, I hear that getting stoned in Iran is a terrible business, and it's nothing to do with killer weed. This is not, sadly, a tale of wild travels in the seventies on the hippy trail from Istanbul through Iran to Afghanistan. Both nations became somewhat off limits by 1979, what with the Islamic Revolution in Iran and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union, and getting stoned took on a whole new medieval twist.

Something about stones being thrown at you until you're, you know, dead. Women are buried up to their neck, and men are buried up to their waist. The stones must be a particular size, not too big and not too small, something like Goldilocks and the 3 bears and finding just the right fit. The big ones might work too fast, depriving the execution audience of extended entertainment, and that simply won't do. So if you're planning on becoming part of a stoning gang, pack a hooded garment and pick your stones properly, do NOT breach stoning etiquette, I'm not sure of the consequences but they could be dire. Maybe bad stoners get stoned themselves, or maybe they're simply off the roster for the next round of stoning pleasure.

Execution by stoning was supposedly outlawed in 2002, by Iranian judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, but there have been nasty rumors it still happens and more frequently than the goverment admits. In July, 8 women and one man were sentenced to death by stoning for the heinous crime of adultery; at least one was accused of prostitution. Murderers and rapists are executed by hanging, a less painful death for lesser crimes. Getting a bit on the side riles up God's wrath to no end, so the punishment must be commiserate with the crime against GOD.

It appears that most of those accused of adultery are women. Men can marry several wives, even temporarily, but women can be accused of adultery even if their husband says they are guilty of 'lewd' behavior. Six of the eight women recently sentenced had no lawyers present during confessions, there were no witnesses, they were from parts of the country with low literacy, and many did not even understanding Farsi. Sounds fair to me.

A couple of sisters (in another case) were accused and convicted of adultery based on a photo that showed them fully dressed (and veiled) in the company of men that were not relatives. The accusers were the husband of one, and the brother of both. Call me crazy, but one might think the accusations against women have more to do with a desire for absolute control of women, than any real outrage against adultery. If there are prostitutes, then you can bet your bottom dollar that men are committing adultery.

But hey, who am I to criticize the justice system in Iran? Who am I to dare to think that a justice system based on a strict view of Islamic law is wrong? If they say that God wants to stone adulterers, then it MUST be true. If they say that God deems a woman's testimony to be worth half that of a man's, then it must be RIGHT. The mullahs know what God wants, who am I to disagree?

Maybe we should institute stoning in Canada, but do it the Canadian way. If you're caught snuggling up to a colleague instead of your mate, you're immediately sent to Vancouver, where you are thrown unceremoniously into an airtight cell (no blanky, no videos, no tv or internet, no ipod - it's truly torturous) while bales of weed are lit on fire to burn until you pass out after suffering blistering dry mouth and agonizing munchies. You wake up starvers, shivering in your lonely cell, and the cycle is repeated until you start screaming like a baby for water and pizza. You'd cry, but you're too dehydrated. Paranoia sets in, and you will promise anything to stop the panicky niggling thoughts that you really are a danger to society and must be stoned to death.

Surprisingly, it seems that some people living in our illustrious country feel that adultery is worthy of stoning - I dared to read the 'comments' about an article on this issue in a major paper. One woman claimed that we should take adultery more seriously, and that there's nothing wrong with stoning in Iran (she must have been forgetting about the lack of proper trials and how the accused are mostly women). She wrote that our justice system is too lax, and criminals wind up back on the street. Bad bad women who do the neighbor wind up running around their upper middle class hood in lululemons, once again on the loose and capable of re-offending.

So I have an idea. Since she likes the medieval way of doing things, let's go medieval. Let's dig about in British history and see what we can come up with. There's a plethora of brutal execution styles that I can proudly say match or outdo anything they've come up with in Iran. There's being boiled alive, pressed alive, lit on fire (from the feet up, nice and slow and toasty roasty), and the rack is good fun for getting confessions - limbs strapped down so you are pulled apart slowly till you say 'I did it I did it, whatever it is, I did it!!!!!'. Beheadings can be a little rocky if it takes more than one stroke, as it usually did, but the capper has to be 'hanged, drawn and quartered'. This is really something and reflects the inventiveness of the British mind.

First, you're dragged through the streets on a hurdle (a wooden frame), and then you're hung for a little while, just as a warm up. The next step is disembowelment and emasculation. After you're strapped down to a table, cuffed with cute leather straps and chains, your chest is cut open by way of hammer and iron chisel, and they rip out your heart, or your gut is sliced and your intestines are pulled out; in either case your inner most parts along with your balls are waved in front of the crowd, and then lit on fire in front of your eyes. As a grand finale, you are beheaded and what's left is cut into quarters. The parts are then put on display around town and country. Now that's what I call an execution.

The British, however, reserved the whole 'hanged, drawn and quartered' process for men guilty of high treason (women were burned at the stake). The British, immoral as they were, didn't mind adultery too much, it wasn't a capital offense, unless of course it involved a queen and a cranky king who got particularly upset. Then all bets were off. The justice system back in the 1500's was pretty much what the king or queen wanted, and evidence was not all that essential. Was never a good idea to mutter under your breath: god, I'm sick of this King, and I think I'd like another. Sometimes it was just a bad idea to be born into the royal line.

So, according to one root of our cultural heritage, treason was the most serious offence, and if we continued with that policy, and had the death penalty in Canada, it would be a dangerous business indeed to complain about the Prime Minister, which happens to be a favored Canadian sport. And as far as planning attacks on the Prime Minister, there would be no holding anyone in jail too long, they'd be hanged, drawn and quartered (ouch!).

Maybe, just maybe, the justice system we have is not too lax, it does spare the unjustly accused from being murdered by the state, and as far as any stats I've read, there's plenty of rape and incest going on in countries with draconian punishments. Barbaric is a word that's not too strong, and we, in the West, find death by stoning barbaric because we've stopped enjoying gruesome public executions.

Most of us find the death penalty itself, still de rigeur in some American states, to be a backward form of punishment. Amnesty International has called on Iran to abolish this 'grotesque punishment' of stoning. Iran is contravening its international agreements by such sentencing, and countless activists in Iran are fighting against these types of executions.

Tragically, 29 dissidents were hanged, on July 27th, on the basis of drummed up charges of drug trafficking and armed robbery, in the same place that 30,000 political prisoners were executed within a few months in l988. It's hard to think of another nation where so many have the heart to be activists when the risks are so great. It's hard to imagine the courage it takes to fight a system that will kill you for speaking out. It's hard to imagine what it's like to wait in a cell for your death by stoning.

For more information on the the issue of execution by stoning: WLUML, Women Living Under Muslim Laws: http://www.wluml.org/english/index.shtmll

The following site is run by the Stop Stoning in Iran campaign, with links to articles and information: http://www.meydaan.com/English/default.aspx




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