• 2 July 2010
  • Posted By Sherry Safavi
  • Human Rights in Iran

Death by stoning, generally thought of as a barbaric and obsolete practice of a bygone era, is unfortunately not quite the anachronism one would like it to be. An Iranian woman, facing charges of adultery for her involvement with two men responsible for the murder of her husband, has been sentenced to death by stoning in the Iranian city of Tabriz.

Sakineh Mohamamadie Ashtiani’s execution will be drawn out. She will be struck by rocks until she is buried up to her chest. Had she been a man she would have been buried up to her waist only. Inopportunely, the majority of those sentenced to death by stoning in Iran are women.

News of the sentence has been met with a mixture of moral outrage and deep disappointment. Stoning is yet another example of the Iranian government’s utter disregard for human rights. At every turn, one stumbles upon a new article detailing Iran’s human rights abuses. Amnesty International reported 126 executions in Iran from the beginning of the year to June 6.

What is perhaps, most disturbing about stoning is that while it may be a first class human rights violation, it is perfectly legal choice of punishment in Iranian adultery cases. Individuals guilty of infidelity are generally punished with lashes and jail time. The choice of punishment is left to up to the judge. This can be found in Article 83 of the Laws of Islamic Punishment in Iran which was ratified in 1991. The irony is that the punishment of stoning does not appear in the Koran. If the government chooses to follow through with the execution of Ashtiani, the stoning will be the first in years.

Ashtiani’s execution is believed to be imminent. She denies the allegations. Her children, Fasrideh, 16, and Sajjad, 20, are working on behalf of their mother but have not been informed as to the status of her case. Her son pleaded for her release:

“Please help end this nightmare and do not let it turn into a reality. Help us save our mother.”

Matters are complicated by the fact that Ashtiani has already been punished for her alleged extramarital relations. She was tried in 2005 and sentenced to 99 lashes after which she confessed to the crime. She also served an unknown amount of time in prison. She has since then retracted her confession.

One year later, Ashtiani and the two men with whom she was accused of having sexual relations were all tried for the murder of Ashtiani’s husband. They were found guilty and sentenced to death. Ashtiani maintains her innocence. The case is complicated by the fact that murder is not punishable by stoning. In order for Ashtiani to have received the punishment of stoning, her adultery case must have been reopened, human rights activists say. Moreover, it is possible that Ashtiani had trouble understanding the court proceedings due a language barrier, said human rights attorney Mohammad Mostafaei. She speaks Turkish, the court proceedings were held in English.

Ashtiani’s sentence, death by stoning, is a staggering reminder of the rapid deterioration of human rights under President Ahmadinjad’s administration . As the international community continues to focus it’s attentions on nuclear concerns, human rights has taken the back seat and cases like Ashtiani’s go unnoticed.

Posted By Sherry Safavi

    6 Responses to “One Iranian Court’s Cruel and Unusual Choice of Punishment: Death by Stoning”

  1. Pirouz says:

    Personally, I’m against capital punishment. But we have it here, right in the United States. (It’s considered a HR violation in the EU.)

    It would seem to me that Americans should focus on capital punishment here in the US, before pointing at other countries.

    Again, glass houses.

    And while stoning may seem barbaric, consider that Utah just executed by firing squad.

    Yeah, if capital punishment is the focus, it would seem to me that Iranian-Americans should prioritize their efforts here in the US, before attempting to advocate US foreign policy towards others. That’s only logical.

  2. DOS says:

    I’m appalled by the US’s continued practice of capital punishment. For what little it’s worth, the Americans at least attempt to minimize the suffering of their victims with drugs, swift death, etc. Drawing out the suffering of the convicted through sustained physical and emotional anguish is an order of magnitude worse. Only a sociopath would fail to recognize that.

    Logical would be: not interfering with criticisms of a policy that you yourself claim to disagree with on the grounds that there are other things you also disagree with.

    But logic is not part of the package with the regime’s defenders. Neither is compassion. Nor justice.

  3. fhjpeder43 says:

    Capital punishment perverts the state and makes the state a killer. Stoning is an extreme expression of surpressing and violence. The main target for this is women.



  4. Iranian-American says:


    Thank you for the article. The Iranian’s governments actions are morally reprehensible. It is a shame that in this day and age, Iran is still, in many ways, backwards, particularly in its treatment of women. While I can only speak for myself, I am fairly certain just about all Iranian-Americans support NIAC’s stance on this issue.

  5. Rob- Seattle says:

    Pirouz, comparing American capital punishment for murderers to Iranian capital pounishment for adultery is kinda stretching it doncha’ think?


    “(Ronnie Lee Gardner )There he encountered a court clerk, a prison officer, and three attorneys. Two of the attorneys sought refuge behind the office door. Defendant turned on them, pointed the gun at one and then the other, and fired, killing attorney Michael Burdell.”

    Hmmm, murdering unarmed civilian that pose no threat. I think I’m ok with his ending.

  6. Iranian-American says:


    The lunacy of Pirouz’s comparison goes much deeper. Any single one of the following points makes it clear that the comparison between the stoning to death of this woman and the execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner is absolutely and completely absurd.

    1. The original crimes which you pointed out.
    2. The fact that Gardner chose to be executed by a firing squad.
    3. As bad as firing squad is, it is nowhere as backwards and barbaric as burying someone up to the chest and throwing rocks at them until they die.
    4. Oh and there is this: “On October 28, 1987, Gardner broke a glass partition in a prison visiting area and had sex with a female visitor while other inmates barricaded the doors. On September 25, 1994, he got drunk from alcohol he fermented in his own prison cell sink and stabbed another inmate with a shiv fashioned from a pair of sunglasses. Gardner was charged with another capital crime for the stabbing under a Utah law reserved for prison attacks, but the case was thrown out by the Utah Supreme Court because the victim did not die.[1]”

    Pirouz wants to compare this guy to a woman who is (very likely falsely) accused of adultery. The reason why is because Pirouz is in the business of defending the Iranian government by spreading propaganda. The particular method he is using here is distraction. He presents a ludicrous example, purposely leaving out all relevant details. This is an example of Pirouz’s dishonesty in argument.

    The purpose of this dishonest strategy is so that now we start discussing the details of Gardner and the death penalty. He can continue pretending he is against the death penalty and try to further distract by taking one of those points and discussing in great detail whether firing squad is worse than stoning, or whether lethal injection, which was Gardner’s other choice, is really any better than firing squad or stoning. All of this when anyone with half a brain came to the conclusion you came to. These two situations are nothing alike.

    DOS did a fantastic job ignoring the ridiculous comparison and just pointing out the flawed logic. I’d wish he’d reply more, because he seems much better than I am at falling into these traps, and is much more eloquent in his response. You’ll learn to ignore these types of comparisons (since he is well-known for them), just as everyone else has.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Sign the Petition


7,350 signatures

Tell Google: Stop playing Persian Gulf name games!

May 14, 2012
Larry Page
Chief Executive Officer
Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, California 94043

Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



Share this with your friends: