Friday, August 6, 2010

Iran's 7th-Century Justice

by Shirin Ebadi

Wall Street Journal
August 5, 2010

The harrowing case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani—a mother of two sentenced to stoning by an Iranian court for adultery—has rightfully drawn attention to Iran's draconian penal code, which reserves its cruelest punishments for women. Even Tehran's new political ally, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, has been roused into action, publicly offering Ms. Ashtiani asylum in his country.

Iran has yet to respond formally, and a foreign leader can have no direct bearing on a domestic legal proceeding. But the intervention—a direct appeal to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—demonstrates that the Islamic Republic's human rights record can't be divorced from its nuclear diplomacy.

Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, in the years when I worked as a judge in Iran, consensual sexual relations between adults did not figure in the country's criminal code. But the revolution enacted a version of Islamic law extraordinarily harsh even by the standards of the Muslim world. Under the new regime, extramarital sex was a crime punishable by law. The punishment for a single man or woman guilty of sex outside marriage became 100 lashes; under Article 86, the punishment for a married person became death by stoning.