Death By Stoning: Using Global Awareness as a Catalyst for Change
43-year-old Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was spared from her sentence of death by public stoning, primarily due to the international attention this issue has gained in recent weeks.
Ashtiani had originally been accused, tried, and convicted of crimes of adultery, which is still illegal in many parts of the world today. However, her children asserted her innocence, and drew international attention to their mothers situation in hopes that the rest of the world would be more aware of the cruelty and injustice taking place around them.
Ashtiani's Stoning Sentence
When Ashtiani was first convicted in May 2006, she received 99 lashes, but the death sentence was not handed down until some years later, when the case was reopened under the suspicion that she murdered her husband. She was acquitted for the murder charge, but once the case was reopened, judges began to review the adultery charge.
Upon review, the death penalty was handed down based on a condition called judges knowledge, a loophole in the law which allows judges to make a ruling based on their own opinions, even when no conclusive evidence is present. Although she has been pardoned from her sentence of death by stoning, it is unclear whether or not the death sentence will be carried out in another way, according to a July 9, 2010 article in Time magazine.
The Stoning of Soraya M.
Iran was previously under international scrutiny for its growing use of the death penalty; this year alone, the nation has held over 100 executions. The most brutal method of execution by far is public stoning, the punishment to which Ashtiani was sentenced. This gruesome method of execution is performed differently based on the condemns gender; men are buried in the sand up to their waist, usually with their arms free, and if they are able to escape from their partial-burial, they are pardoned from their death sentence.
Women, on the other hand, are buried up to their chest, reportedly to hide the woman's breasts, but making escape near impossible. Stones are then thrown at the condemned prisoner until they expire.
How Do You Believe We Can Eradicate This Barbaric Process?
Stoning is a 'Slow, Torturous Death'
The true tragedy behind this barbaric practice is the fact that the Islamic religion, which is the principle religion in this region, does not condone stoning as a method of execution, but the method has been carried out despite this knowledge. Even the new supposedly progressive Iranian president, Mohammed Khatami, has allowed stoning to death to continue to be the principle method of execution in the country.
According to an study posted on.iran-e-azad.org, "The condemned are wrapped head to foot in white shrouds and buried up to their waists...The stones are specifically chosen so they are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the condemned immediately. They are guaranteed a slow, torturous death. Sometimes their children are forced to watch. Their offense is usually adultery.
Continued Awareness and Change for the Future
It is likely that the only way that Iran, as well as other nations which exercise this method of execution, will awaken to the brutality and in justice of stoning would be if international organizations and governments continue to express their disapproval. If this international pressure was no longer based on a case-by-case basis, but rather focused on the entire concept of execution by stoning, perhaps real changes could be made.
With constant pressure and criticism from the rest of the world, perhaps Iran will feel obligated to not just spare whichever prisoner has the most sympathetic case, but rather to eradicate this practice from their judicial system altogether.