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Why is Iran Scared to Execute Sakineh? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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In just a single day earlier this week Iran executed 12 drug traffickers. Over the past year, Iran has executed more than 170 political prisoners; however, over the last four year Tehran has been unable to carry out the execution of one single woman accused of adultery. She has remained in jail ever since her sentence was pronounced, and nothing was disclosed about her situation until a few days ago, when footage was released showing her in good health with her children.

What has made the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani such an obstinate problem for this iron-fisted regime that is used to carrying out hundreds of executions and provoking both the local and international communities? How can a regime such as this dare to build a nuclear weapon, yet fail to execute a single woman?

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is not an important figure in Iran, nor is her charge a political one, but her conviction has caused, and continues to cause, a storm of international condemnation which threatens what remains of the [Iranian] government’s reputation, and its relations with the world. Iran even imprisoned two German journalists on charges of espionage, simply because they sought to interview her. As a result of campaigns launched by human rights organizations, the Iranian regime has found itself besieged internationally because of its intention to execute a woman that it has convicted of adultery, and it has been inundated with protests, even from countries where it has been seeking support, such as Latin American countries, China, and others. Because of this case, the regime will also lose the sympathy of western left-wing groups. These groups had previously challenged their respective governments, in protest against the international [economic] siege being imposed upon Iran.

As a result of this, Iran has fabricated claims that not only is Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani an adulteress, but also a murderer, who killed her husband…however this story was not convincing, and the [Iranian] government has ceased circulating it. Now, it appears that the state is paving the way to release Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, and it has invented a different ridiculous story [in this regard] with the convicted woman appearing in the media for the first time, outside of prison, eating with her children at her home, and – on official state television – claiming that her lawyer is a liar and that he conspired against her. She also criticized the two German journalists for trying to distort her story. Worse still, her son has appeared on television, begging mercy for his mother, and admitting that she did in fact commit adultery. This is something that makes absolutely no sense, unless the son is making this confession as part of some deal with the authorities that will ensure that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani is not executed, with the government therefore trying to dig itself out of this predicament [in this manner].

As for why the Iranian authorities are so concerned about the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani – even through this is not an unusual case in Iran – this is due to their fear that her execution would arouse the hostility of women’s organizations and human rights groups worldwide. But why is Iran afraid of causing global anger in this case, when it has previously committed acts that have aroused far greater hostility than executing someone? The answer is that if Iran continues to lose international public opinion, the world may strongly support a war against this “barbaric regime.” Before Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait, his major weakness was that he imprisoned and executed many, taking pride in his crimes, in a clear defiance of international opinion. The execution of British journalist Farzad Bazoft was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Similarly, images documenting the Taliban regime, where they were shown to prevent girls from education, and whip them in public places, aroused international anger and disgust. This mobilized the necessary support to wage a war against this backward regime.