Iran, the nation that was included by George W. Bush in his axis of evil, is seldom out of the news, often for its alleged persecution of dissidents, including homosexuals. Its leader, the charismatic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is said to have threatened to wipe Israel off the map – a lie
that is still parroted to this day in certain political circles, but at the moment its religious leaders are facing a terrible dilemma over the punishment awarded to a man who committed a truly horrible crime.
In November 2004, Ameneh Bahrami was a twenty-six year old engineer in a country where women are supposed to be second class citizens. She had a bright future ahead of her, an attractive, highly intelligent young woman who would undoubtedly have made any Iranian man proud to call her his wife. One such man was Majid Movahedi; although five years her junior, he appears to have pursued her with considerable passion, a passion that was entirely one-sided, and when she rejected his proposals, that passion turned to something terrible; he threw a bucket of acid
in her face, disfiguring her horribly, and far worse, blinding her in both eyes.
How should the courts deal with a man who perpetrates such a sickeningly barbaric crime on a young woman, or on anyone?
In Britain, Katie Piper had acid thrown in her face by twenty year old Stefan Sylvestre, a “hit man” who carried out the attack at the behest of Daniel Lynch, whom Piper had dated briefly but rejected. She was left blinded in one eye and with damage to her oesophegus which makes it difficult for her to eat and sometimes causes her to vomit during meals.
In May 2009, both her attacker and the man who put him up to it were gaoled for life; Lynch with a tariff of 16 years
. Katie said there will never be a sentence long enough for her.
Islamic justice is radically different from Western justice; punishments under Sharia law can be extremely harsh, and are often alluded to by “liberals” as barbaric, and in this case, the punishment decreed by the Sharia court is literally an eye for an eye.
As with capital cases in the United States, the Iranian courts do not rush to carry out the sentence; Majid Movahedi has been in custody since 2005, and until recently his sentence has been under appeal. His pleas for the mercy he did not extend to Ameneh Bahrami have fallen on deaf ears, because under Iranian law, it is she who had demanded he suffer the same punishment as her, that his eyes be blinded with acid.
The sentence was due to be carried out last week, but the court has postponed it, clearly perturbed by the effect it would have on world opinion. If they go ahead, there will be outrage.
In November 1987, the Provisional IRA exploded a bomb in the town of Enniskillen which left eleven people dead and hundreds injured. In the wake of that atrocity, Gordon Wilson, the father of one of the victims, said that he had prayed for the men who had murdered his daughter. His words literally moved the world, and certainly changed it.
We see such extraordinary pronouncements from time to time, from people of all faiths and none. One correspondent said that interviewing him was the nearest he had come to being in the presence of a saint
, but who in Iran or anywhere has the right to ask Ameneh Bahrami to follow in the footsteps of Gordon Wilson?
It remains to be seen how long the Iranian authorities will or can sit on the fence, but as the law stands, the fate of Majid Movahedi is not in their hands. And along with the international outcry from human rights organisations can be heard the occasional dissenting voice, as one American website
put it: “Blind that bastard”.