If there were ever any question whether the brutal Iranian dictatorship is dedicated to torture, death and terrorism, the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani should eradicate all doubt.
In 2006, Sakineh was beaten into a confession of adultery and as punishment received 99 lashes. After the beating, Sakineh recanted. Nevertheless, the case was reopened and the crime of adultery with a cousin was commuted to murdering a husband.
Although Sakineh was acquitted of spousal murder, “the adultery charge was reviewed and a death penalty handed down on the basis of ‘judge’s knowledge’ — a loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where no conclusive evidence is present.” As a result, Iranian justice acquitted a woman of murder and then sentenced that same woman to death by stoning for infidelity.
Sakineh was condemned to an excruciatingly slow death. When describing stoning, Iranian penal code specifies that stones should be “large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately…[or] … large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes.”
However, if the accused manages to avoid being knocked unconscious by the rocks and can “wriggle free during the stoning, the death sentence is commuted.” Men are buried up to the waist, but women to the neck, for “fear that their breasts may be uncovered,” which makes Sakineh’s chance for survival less likely than a man sentenced to the same demise.
Sitting in an Iranian jail cell, torturously waiting to be led to that fateful hole in the ground for almost half a decade, Sakineh supposedly endured yet another brutal lashing after being convicted of spreading “corruption and indecency.” Mohammadi-Ashtiani was accused of posing in a photograph, featured in the Times of London, without a hijab. After it was reported and Sakineh suffered another 99 lashes, it was proven that the photo was of a political activist living in Sweden named Susan Hejrat.
Despite the Iranian government supposedly commuting Sakineh’s stoning sentence and after the blurred image appeared in the Times of a woman identifying herself as Ashtiani and denying ever being whipped or tortured, the British government rightly accused Iran of fabricating a murder charge to justify executing the woman for something – anything.
Iran’s prosecutor general Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei recently announced that “According to the court’s ruling, [Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani] is convicted of murder and her death sentence has priority over her punishment [for committing adultery].” The newly revised sentence means that Ashtiani, “whose husband was killed by her cousin – will not be stoned to death for committing adultery,” but instead “she should first be executed for [a] murder” for which she was originally acquitted.
In lieu of being stoned, Sakineh will instead be hung until dead. In Iran, dying for murder takes precedence over dying for committing adultery, an argument that makes as much sense as Mahmoud Amadinejad insisting “his government does not want an atomic bomb …and … is only seeking peace and a nuclear-weapons-free world.”
Instead of slowly dying trying to free herself from a hole in the ground, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani will have a cruel cord placed around her slender neck. A hangman will jerk the rope to ensure that the bone in Sakineh’s neck breaks and severs her spinal cord. She will experience brain death and die within twenty minutes, then be cut down and buried by her adult children and a lawyer who fought tirelessly to liberate her from undeserved death.
Thus, in the end a hangman’s noose beckons to Sakineh, offering freedom from the crack of the whip and emancipation from a fate of death by stoning.