Thursday, October 05, 2006

Justice for Women under Sharia?

If you listen to the talk from some people, the rules in Islam are there to protect women, but when you look at Sharia-based penal codes, you find things like this in Iran (and there are similar rules about what is considered valid evidence in countries like Pakistan and other nations):

Article 74: Adultery, whether punishable by flogging or stoning, may be proven by the testimony of four just men or that of three just men and two just women.

Article 75: If adultery is punishable only by flogging it can be proven by the testimony of two just men and four just women.

Article 76: The testimony of women alone or in conjunction with the testimony of only one just man shall not prove adultery but it shall constitute false accusation which is a punishable act.

That last one is a real kicker, because if you are a woman who has been attacked by a man, and there aren't enough witnesses, then if you bring charges, you in turn will be punished - a clause that seems perfectly designed to let men get away with rape.

Western Resistance has the following information about women in Iran under threat of the death penalty:

  • Parisa Akbari currently resides in Adelabad prison in Shiraz, southern Iran. She was arrested in April 2004, while working as a prostitute. She confessed to the charge of adultery during interrogation. She claimed that had been forced into prostitution by her husband due to the family's poverty. During her trial in June 2004, she retracted her confession. On 21 June 2004, Branch 5 of the Fars province Criminal Court sentenced her to be stoned to death for adultery.

    On 15 November, 2005, the sentence was upheld by Branch 32 of the Supreme Court. Currently her case is being reviewed by the Supreme Court.

  • Iran Eskandari, an Ahwazi Arab from the Bakhtiari clan, was reportedly talking to the son of a neighbor in the courtyard of her house, when her husband attacked her with a knife. She was badly beaten and left bleeding and unconscious on the floor. While she was unconscious, it is alleged that the man killed her husband with his own knife. While police were interrogating her about the killing, Iran Eskandari reportedly confessed to adultery with the son of her neighbor. However she later retracted her confession. A court in the city of Khuzestan sentenced her to five years' imprisonment for being an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and to execution by stoning for adultery. The verdict was upheld by the Supreme Court in April 2006. Her lawyer has appealed against the sentence. She is detained in Sepidar prison, in Ahwaz city.
  • Khayrieh Valania, an Ahwazi Arab, was reportedly subjected to domestic violence by her husband. She allegedly began an affair with a relative of her husband, who then murdered him. She was sentenced to death by Branch 3 of Behbahan Court, in Khuzestan in southwestern Iran, for being an accomplice in the murder of her husband, and death by stoning for adultery. Khayrieh Valania has denied any involvement in her husband's murder, but confessed to adultery. The sentence was upheld, and the case has reportedly been sent to the Head of the Judiciary for permission to be implemented. Talking about her fate, Khayrieh Valania said "I am ready to be hanged, but they should not stone me. They could strangle you and you would die, but it is very difficult to have stones hitting you in the head".
  • Soghra Mola'iwas sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder in January 2004 of her husband Abdollah, and to execution by stoning for adultery. During interrogation she said "My husband usually tormented me. Nevertheless, I did not intend to kill him. On the night of the incident.... after Alireza killed my husband, I ran away with him because I was scared to stay at home, thinking that my brothers-in-law would kill me." Alireza was sentenced to death for the murder of Soghra Mola'i's husband, and to 100 lashes for "illicit relations". The sentences are pending examination by the Supreme Court.
  • Fatemeh (surname unknown), was sentenced in May 2005 by Branch 71 of the Tehran Province Criminal Court to retribution (qesas) for being an accomplice to murder, and execution by stoning for having an 'illicit relationship' with a man named Mahmoud. Her husband was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of Mahmoud. The case is currently being examined in the Supreme Court. According to a May 2005 report in the newspaper Etemad, an altercation occurred between Mahmoud, and Fatemeh's husband. Fatemeh confessed to tying a rope around Mahmoud's throat, which resulted in his strangulation. She has claimed that she intended merely to tie his hands and feet after he was unconscious and hand him over to the police.
  • Malek Shamameh Ghorbany (see our link on sidebar) was arrested in June 2005, was sentenced to execution by stoning for adultery by a court in Orumieh in June 2006. She is reportedly held in Orumieh prison. Her brother and husband reportedly murdered a man that they found in her house, and she too was nearly killed after they stabbed her with a knife. Malak Ghorbany's case is being reviewed.

    She said to her lawyer at a recent meeting: "For a while, I was receiving harassing phone calls from a man I did not know. He claimed that his name was Morad, and that he was infatuated with me. I have no idea how he had obtained my phone number or address.

    One day, I was at home when this man called me again from his cell phone. As I was talking to him on the phone, the door bell rang. Still on the phone, I opened the door, and there he was! I tried to close the door, but he placed his leg inside and pushed his way in, despite my desperate struggle to keep him out. He turned off the lights and raped me. My brother came in and witnessed the attack. He contacted my husband, and when "Morad" tried to flee from the house, my husband and brother caught him and stabbed him to death. They also stabbed me, and when I opened my eyes next, I was in a hospital.

    Her husband, Mohammad Daneshar and her brother Abu Bakr Ghorbai were sentenced in the same court which convicted her to adultery to six years' jail each.

  • Kobra Najjar is detained in Tabriz prison in northwestern Iran. She is at imminent risk of execution. She was sentenced to eight years' imprisonment for being an accomplice to the murder of her husband, and execution by stoning for adultery. She was scheduled to be executed after serving her prison sentence, which was finished two years ago. She has reportedly written to the Judicial Commission for Amnesty to ask for her sentence of execution by stoning to be commuted, and is awaiting a reply.

    Kobra Najjar was allegedly forced into prostitution by her husband, a heroin addict who was violent towards her. In 1995, after a severe beating by her husband, she told one of her regular customers that she wanted to kill her husband. The customer allegedly murdered her husband after Kobra Najjar took him to an arranged meeting place. He was sentenced to death, but he was pardoned by the victim's family, to whom he paid diyeh (blood money).

    Most of the information above has been circulated through various outlets, with details coming from Amnesty International. Spipou has sent me links to information on another case.

  • Kobra Rahmanpour, now aged about 25, was arrested on November 5, 2000. She was sentenced to death for the premeditated murder of her mother-in-law in 2000, and her husband, the victim's son, has demanded that the death sentence be carried out.

    Around 10 November, 2003, Kobra Rahmanpour's husband reportedly presented documents establishing him as the legitimate representative of his mother's heirs. He is therefore entitled to request that the death sentence be carried out, as 'retribution in-kind' (qisas-e nafs). According to Iran's Penal Code, the decision to inflict retribution (qisas-e nafs) rests with the heirs of the victims.

    After being confirmed by the Supreme Court, death sentences imposed for murder can only be commuted if the victim's heirs forgo their right to retribution and ask instead for the payment of blood money (diyeh), or if the Head of the Judiciary invokes his power to revoke a finalized verdict if it is flawed, and refer the case to another court. It is reported that Kobra Rahmanpour's lawyer will ask for clemency from the victim's family.

    Kobra allegedly acted in self-defence after her mother-in-law tried to attack her with a kitchen knife. At an unknown date, she was tried by Branch 1608 of Tehran's Criminal Court, where she was sentenced to death. Her lawyer has reportedly complained that the court did not consider, nor conduct any investigation into, her claim that the murder was in self-defence. Her lawyer is believed to have alleged that wounds on Kobra Rahmanpour's right hand had been sustained due to pulling the knife from the hands of her mother-in-law. In January 2003 her death sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court. Kobra Rahmanpour has been held in prison, possibly in Tehran, since her arrest in 2000.

    It is alleged that Kobra Rahmanpour was forced into marriage against her will by her parents, and had been the victim of domestic violence since her marriage.

    A PETITION exists to help save her life.

    A letter from her father Abolfazl Rahmanpour describes the plight of his daughter:

    "...Kobra, my young daughter, was forced to marry a man, 43 years older than herself. Kobra was a good student in her school and her wish was to study in the university but she was forced to forget all of her wishes because of the extreme poverty of the family.

    Kobra had a hard life before marriage and after marriage her life became even worse. The extremeness of problems and sufferings that she had to take in a family that look at her first a servant and then a daughter-in-law, was so much that made a kind girl like her to commit a murder in an accident and while defending herself.

    Kobra spent the best years of her youth in the prison and with the threat of death She has suffered so much and has completely fall. It is so many years that she can feel the execution rope on her neck and her life goes on with sensing death, she shouldn't suffer more tortures. When look at her colorless eyes, fallen teeth, and senseless body I always ask myself what did I do wrong? What shouldn't I have done?....

    Kobra herself has written an open letter, which includes the following:

    My dear father and mother and my disabled brother who are so much worried for me, have always looked for your support. So many times I think with myself - wishing my life would follow a different path. Wishing I could finish my pre university course. Wishing I wouldn't be forced to work and to serve my husband's family. Wishing I wouldn't reach the borders of madness. But I have suffered so much. I am really a victim. And it is this victim who they are going to hang to .death. This is not a destiny that I deserve.

    In these days of scare and horror, I come to you again. I thank all the media papers and people who supported me and said that "Kobra shouldn't be executed". This time, maybe for the last time, I want to ask you to do your last tries for me to not to be executed and to have a chance to be free. In my dreams I always think of freedom and a good life after that.

    I have suffered enough. Help me so this horrible nightmare that has so many times chased me in the sleep and has made me waking up and scream, won't come true. Help me to be away from death. Do whatever you can, there is little time. These days would be gone too and for me, every click of a clock is a sign that death is near. Please help me! I am scared from death and execution. I hate the execution rope and the crane. I want to live. All other ways are closed to me. Nobody is here for me. My only hope lies in people and my fellow humans. I want to hug my father and mother."

    And lest we forget, there is another case, which we described on August 7, 2006.

  • Delara Darabi has been sentenced to death for a second time, with this judgement upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court. She has been found guilty of committing a murder when she was 17 years old. However, there are elements in the Iranian prosecutor's case that do not ring true. She was first charged last year and found guilty in a lower court in Rasht, in northern Iran. The Supreme Court initially upheld the sentence of the Rasht court. However, in January this year, the Supreme Court rejected the death sentence and ordered a retrial.

    Following two trial sessions from January and on 15 June, Delara Darabi was once again sentenced to death, and she is now at imminent risk of execution, even though the offense was committed when she was only 17, and still a minor. As a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Iran has stated that it will not execute people for offenses committed when under the age of 18. However, since 1990, Iran has executed 18 people for crimes committed as minors.

    The guilt of Delara Darabi is questionable. She did take part in a burglary, with a man, 19-year old Amir Hossein, though she says she was under the influence of sedatives at the time. The two had entered a woman's house, with the intention of burglary, but the woman was killed. Amir Hossein had apparently been the person to kill the woman. Unwisely, Delara Darabi at first confessed to the crime. She retracted the statement later, claiming that Amir Hossein had asked her to take responsibility for the killing, as he was over 18 and would have faced the death penalty. Delara assumed that, being under 18, she would not be executed if found guilty, so she confessed to the killing.

    Another woman facing possible death by hanging for killing a man who tried to rape her in a public park is Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi.

    And on July 28, we related that another woman, a mother of four children, 37-year old Ashraf Kalahri, was in imminent danger of being stoned to death. According to Lily Mazahery and Payvand, on August 13, Ashraf's death sentence was stopped. But whether she will be stoned to death, or sentenced to another capital punishment is not known. At present, her life hangs in limbo.

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