Too Big, Too Small, Just Right

© 2010, Peter Marshall

It wasn’t the story of Goldilocks, but the size of stones to be used to hurl at the victim sentenced to stoning under Sharia Law in Iran.  Men to be stoned are buried to the waist before the executioners – mainly prison guards start to hurl the stones with all their might, while women are buried to the neck. If the stones are too small, they will injure but not kill. If the stones are too large they might kill the victim immediately. They need to be just right, so that the victims keep alive to suffer for perhaps twenty minutes as they are reduced to a bloody pulp by stone after stone.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
A woman plays the role of Sakine in Trafalgar Square

The sentence passed on Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for her alleged adultery has shocked the world, thanks to her lawyer,  Mohammad Mostafaei and the groups that have campaigned on her behalf, and the outcry has been so great that Iranian sources have stated she will not be stoned, but is expected to be hanged. Hanging in Iran is still a barbaric practice, with the person struggling for breath for many minutes hanging with the noose around their neck, as they are slowly strangled by the weight of their body.

Mostafaei fled Iran after he was questioned and released, but heard that police had already arrested his wife and her brother and were about to arrest him. He has now applied for asylum in Turkey.

© 2010, Peter Marshall

Sakine was initially tried and found guilty of  having an “illicit relationship” with two men after the murder of her husband, on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted under duress and which she has since retracted. Sentence of 99 lashes was carried out for that offence in 2006, but the courts also decided to reopen her case and charge her with adultery, finding her guilty on a majority verdict apparently based on a judge’s opinion of her rather than any evidence.

Of course hers is not an isolated case, and at least 12 and possibly as many as 50 others are in prison in Iran awaiting stoning.  The death penalty there under the Iranian interpretation of sharia law applies to murder, rape, armed robbery, apostasy (the abandonment of Islam) and drug trafficking as well as  adultery.

© 2010, Peter Marshall
Maryam Namazie speaking
It was hard to find any way to express an appropriate disgust while photographing, and for me at least, the simple image of the stones was most effective. Of course I also photographed the event in Trafalgar Square – people standing with placards, including a small group wearing coloured full body (Zentai) suits who came and joined in briefly, the speakers and a little bit of street theatre, though I’d wandered away briefly when this started and missed the key element!

More about the Day of Protest Against Stoning on My London Diary.

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