Wednesday, 3 November 2010
NEO-COLONIALIST MANIPULATIONS AROUND THE CASE OF IRANIAN WOMAN, SAKINEH MOHAMMAD-ASHTANI
The Sakineh scandal
French essayist Bernard-Henry Levy and President Nicolas Sarkozy have
mobilized French public opinion to save an Iranian woman, accused of
adultery, from being stoned to death. Overcome with emotion, the
French did not take the time to verify the allegations, until actor
Dieudonné M’bala M’balatraveled to Teheran. Once in the Iranian
capital, everything turned out to be false. Thierry Meyssan addresses
the spectacular and reckless manipulation that took place.
The calls for Koran burnings by certain US clergymen on the occasion
of the ninth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, shook the
Muslim world. The reactions to the announcement differ according to
the culture. In the western world, it is regarded as a provocation
which should not be overdramatized. True, the Koran is a sacred book,
but it’s only paper, after all. Inversely, in the Islamic world, the
burning of the Koran is perceived as an attempt to disconnect man
from the sacred teachings and to deny him salvation. This gives rise
to uncontrollable emotional reactions which are considered by the
West as religious hysteria. Nothing like it could ever happen in
Europe, and much less in France, a country steeped in militant
secularism for more than a century. And yet …
Mobilizing public opinion
French author Bernard-Henri Levy  recently alerted the French
public to the case of Sakineh Mohammad-Ashtanni, a young Iranian
woman reportedly condemned to death by stoning for committing
adultery. He launched a signature campaign through the Internet to
put pressure on the Iranian authorities, urging them to stop this
In close touch with both the victim’s son, a resident of Tabriz, and
the victim’s lawyer, Javid Hustan Kian, who has recently settled in
France to flee the Iranian regime, Mr. Levy didn’t skimp on any of
the details: stoning - a practice which was interrupted through a
moratorium - has been revived on President Ahmadinejad’s initiative.
Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani could be put to death at the end of
Ramadan. Meanwhile, the prison warden, riled by the media scandal,
ordered her to be lashed 99 times.
The French essayist concentrates his attacks on the mode of
execution, observing: “Why stoning? Isn’t there another way of
killing in Iran? Because it is the most abominable of all. Because an
aggression against a person’s face, a deluge of stones cast at an
innocent and bare face, the refinement of cruelty to the point of
encoding the size of the stones to guarantee the victim’s protracted
suffering, represent a rare composite of inhumanity and barbarity.
And because this way of obliterating a face, of exploding the flesh
and reducing it to a bloody magma, of bombarding it until it
transforms into a blob, symbolizes much more than a simple execution.
Stoning is not just a death sentence. Stoning is the extermination of
a flesh that was put on trial, albeit somewhat retroactively, for
having been a flesh, and that flesh in particular: the flesh of a
young and beautiful woman, one who was both loved and a lover, who
possibly also experienced the happiness of loving and of being
President Sarkozy endorsed Levy’s allegations during the annual
conference of French Ambassadors . After his speech he declared
that the condemned woman would henceforth fall under “the
responsibility of France”.
Numerous associations and high-profile personalities quickly joined
in the movement and more than 140 000 signatures were collected.
France’s Prime Minister François Fillon turned up in the newsroom of
the main public television channel to express his feelings of
solidarity with Sakineh, “sister of us all”. Meanwhile, former French
Secretary for human rights Rama Yade stated that from that moment on
France was considering this case as a “personal affair”.
Although they may not know it, the emotive reaction of the French
people is tightly associated with the religious side of their
collective subconscious. Whether Christian or not, the French have
been marked by the story of Jesus and the adulteress. Let us briefly
recall the myth .
The Pharisees, a group of arrogant Jews, wanted to put Jesus in an
embarrassing situation. They brought a woman to him who had been
caught committing adultery.
According to the laws of Moses, the woman should have been stoned,
but that cruel prescription had luckily been abandoned. The Pharisees
asked Jesus to decide what had to be done. If he approved of her
stoning, they would regard him as a fanatic. If, on the contrary, he
refused to punish her, he would be accused of going against the law.
But Jesus saved the woman by affirming: “let he who is without sin,
cast the first stone”. Jesus reversed the dilemma: if the Pharisees
stone her, it is because they think of themselves as pure. If they
don’t, they are the ones violating the law. And, the book states:
“they gradually withdrew, beginning with the elders”. In western
thought, this myth constitutes the cornerstone of the separation
between civil and religious law. The adulteress committed a sin and
is therefore accountable only to God. She did not commit a crime and
therefore cannot be judged by man.
The French people see the announced stoning of Sakineh
Mohammadi-Ashtiani as an outrageous regression. The Islamic Republic
of Iran must be a religious regime enforcing the Law of Moses as
revised by the Koran, the Sharia. The Mollahs must be a bunch of
phallocratic fanatics who repress women’s love affairs outside
marriage and keep them subject to men. Blinded by their own
obscurantism, they even go so far as to kill them in the most
This is what should be considered as collective religious hysteria
since, in such circumstances, the normal behavior of sensible people
should have been to verify the accusations, something that no one had
bothered to do all this time.
Having himself signed the aforementioned petition, the leader of
France’s Anti-Zionist Party, Dieudonné M’bala M’bala - who happened
to be in Tehran for a film project – was willing to mediate in favor
of the condemned woman. He requested an audience and was received by
Ali Zadeh, vice-president of the Judicial Council and spokesperson
for the Ministry of Justice.
The interview was truly a model of its kind. While Mr. Zadeh was
wondering whether his interlocutor, a humorist by profession, was in
fact joking when voicing his concerns, M’bala kept asking the Iranian
official to repeat the answers to his questions, since he could
hardly believe he had been the prey of such a gross manipulation.
After overthrowing the dictatorship of Shah Reza Pahlevi, the Islamic
Republic made it a priority to put an end to authoritarian abuses by
establishing the rule of law in the most rigorous way possible. For
those cases tried in a criminal court, an appeal mechanism has
existed in the Iranian judicial system for a long time. At any rate,
the Court of Appeals, as a rule, automatically verifies the legality
of the procedure. In this respect, the Iranian judicial system offers
superior guarantees to those of French courts, and the mistakes are
far less frequent.
This being said, the convictions are still particularly harsh. In
particular, the death penalty is applied. Instead of diminishing the
amount of convictions, the Islamic Republic has chosen to restrict
their enforcement. The forgiveness of the victims or their families
is enough to obtain the annulment of the execution. Due to the
existence of that provision and to its widespread application, the
presidential pardon does not exist.
Capital punishment is often pronounced, but is rarely executed. The
Iranian judicial system provides for a delay of 5-years before
executing the sentence, trusting that the victim will forgive the
offender who will thus be pardoned and immediately liberated. In
practice, executions are applied mainly to big drug traffickers,
terrorists and child murderers. The death penalty is normally
executed by hanging in public.
There are reasons to hope that the Islamic revolution will continue
making progress and may soon abolish the death penalty.
In any case, it is a fact that the Iranian Constitution recognizes
the separation of powers. The judicial system is independent and
president Ahmadinejad doesn’t have any say in a judicial decision,
whichever it may be.
In the specific case of Sakineh, everything that was reported by
Bernard-Henry Levy and endorsed by President Sarkozy is false.
1. This lady has not been tried for adultery but for murder. As it
happens, there is no conviction for adultery in Iran. Instead of
revoking this type of incrimination, the law has subordinated the
establishment of the facts to a series of conditions which are
impossible to satisfy. “Four people have to witness the adultery at
the same time” .
2. The Republic of Islam does not recognize the Sharia, but – only
and exclusively- the law passed by the representatives of the people
sitting in Parliament.
3. Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani administered a drug to her husband
and got her lover, Issa Tahen, to kill him while he was asleep. The
“diabolical lovers” have already been tried in the first and
secondary instances and were sentenced to death in both. The Court
did not establish any discrimination between the two genders. It is
important to note that the indictment does not even mention the
intimate relations between the accused, precisely because it is
impossible to prove they actually existed according to the Iranian
law, even when the family members attest to such a relationship.
4. The death penalty is likely to be executed by hanging. Stoning -
which still prevailed under the Shah’s rule and was maintained for a
number of years after his overthrow - has been abolished by the
Islamic Revolution. Irritated by the statements of Bernard-Henry Levy
and Nicolas Sarkozy, the vice-president of the Iranian Judicial
Council told Dieudonné M’bala M’bala that he defies these Zionist
figures to find one single text of contemporary Iranian law that
5. The sentence is currently being examined by the Court of Appeals,
which has to scrutinize the legality of each and every detail of the
procedure. If any irregularity is found, the trial will be declared
null and void. This examination procedure triggers the provisional
suspension of the sentence. Since the final judgment has not yet been
pronounced, the defendant still enjoys the presumption of innocence,
and furthermore, there was never any question of executing her at the
end of Ramadan.
6. Ms. Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s defense attorney, Mr. Javid Hustan Kian,
is an impostor. He is linked with the son of the accused, but has
never been appointed by Ms. Mohammadi-Astiani and has never been in
touch with her. Javid Hustan Kian is member of the People’s
Mujahidin, a terrorist organization that enjoys the protection of
Israel and of the neo-conservatives .
7. The son of the accused lives generally in Tabriz. He is free to
have as many telephone conversations with Mr. Levy as he likes in
order to denigrate his own country, which denotes the free and
democratic nature of his government.
In sum, nothing, absolutely nothing, of what Levy and Sarkozy have
said about Ms. Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani’s story is true.
Bernard-Henry Levy might have repeated, in good faith, false
accusations to buttress his crusade against Iran. However, President
Sarkozy can hardly resort to the same alibi. Officials of the French
Foreign Service, the most prestigious in the world, must surely have
provided him with all the relevant reports on the case. Therefore,
Sarkozy deliberately lied to French public opinion, probably to be
able to justify post facto the harsh sanctions adopted against Iran
to the detriment of the French economy itself, already seriously
affected by his policies.