Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is Iran's fanatic and corrupt judiciary succeeding in priming Iranians to vengeance? Studying reactions to Shahla Jahed's execution

Last week, the criminal court decided to carry out the punishment of death for a woman (Shahla Jahed) who was accused of killing the wife (Laleh Saharkhizan) of her famour soccer-player lover (Naser Mohammadkhani).

This was Iran's O.J Simpson trial; except that here, there was a woman to prosecute, and evidence for the potential involvement of Mohammadkhani were all slipped under the rug.

Judging from the videos of her court proceedings, this woman, Shahla Jahed, did not seem mentally fit, she seemed to have a dependency complex, a bit of megalomania, and plenty of exhibitionism. In other words, not only the likeliest scapegoat, but also the one who could compromise Mohammadkhani's facade most, with her public outcry of love and devotion to him. (In Iran, men are allowed to marry up to four times and have as many temporary marriages as they wish, but the practice is HIGHLY frowned upon in the stoic Iranian society).

I didn't care about the trial, the gossip, and whether she had actually committed murder or not. I am opposed to death penalty, for ANY reason, so death sentence hanging over her head unsettled me as it does for anyone, anywhere in the world. But, what has been occupying my dreams and nightmares, since her killing, is the fact that according to the Iranian/Islamic law, the family of the victim have the right to pardon the killer. The victims family carried their revenge desire for 9 years, during which, due to doubts about the trial, several execution stops were ordered. In Iran the execution of the first-degree murderers is carried out under the will and by the hands of the victim's family; it is they who pull the chair off. As draconian, even that did not surprise me.

What has been eating me up since, is the fact that it was the teenager son of the victim who was given the "honor" of killing this young woman; in presence of his grandmother--who refused to pardon the crying-begging Shahla on the gallows, and his father--who was the main culprit as far as having married a second woman temporarily and having fueled the fires of jealousy that burned both his wives, when he happily took off to London and to Quatar, living his life as if nothing had happened--and then claiming victory when the judge gave his second wife a death sentence!

That a teenager carried out this execution is unforgivable. I have been getting into all sorts of arguments to insist that this is where personal and political merge, but where the act of the individual can neither be excused, nor explained or blamed on the corruption of the government and inadequacy of the system.

Beside that, many sociologists and lawyers have been discussing this case, and many argue, convincingly, that
  • The somewhat unexpected execution of Jahed was another one of IRI's "threatening" maneuvers, on the eve of Student Day.
  • Since the conservatives have dominated the spheres of power, especially with the appointment of the new head of the judiciary, another one of the Larijani crooks, a notable increase in public and cruel forms of executions has been observed. The sociologists argue that this is by design, and aims to desensitize the population to violence, thus reducing the cost of institutional violence for the government, which has by now a 'good' track record in atrocity.
  • The other concern is fascism, of which the Iranian leaders today do not shy away. Cruel nations are the ones where fascism can root easiest.

But, how cruel are Iranians?

To answer this question for myself, I surveyed reader-reactions to this event on one of the first sites that reported the execution: Jame Jam. Jam-e Jam is a conservative newspaper and an offspring of Iran's notorious broadcasting organization; one of the first internet news sites to launch in Iran. 137 responses were recored. Of these, I included 120. (the rest did not address the issue of death penalty for Jahed, they were mostly complains about comments not posting fast enough). I colourcoded the responses:

15% Red (18 comments): people who were happy about the execution and who thought revenge is the right of the victims, and thought that this execution will set an example for other women to not stray off!

36% Yellow(44): people who thought the main culprit was the soccer player, Mohammadkhani, and wished for his trial, although a handful said they wish it was him hanged and not his concubine!

48% Green (58): people who deplored the act of revenge, some respectfully and some not so respectfully, reminded the victim's family that having a teenager Kill is unacceptable, and that in Islam (citing Imam Ali, the first Imam of the Shiites) forgiveness is emphasized just as much as right to revenge for the killing of a blood relation.

I let the picture do the rest of the talking.


Anonymous said...تصویر-آگهی-درخواست-همسر-دوم!

Anonymous said...

The Iranian system of Justice had always included the “Right of Retrubution” (Victims’ Rights) even under the Shah.

It is traceable to the Quran and from there to the tribal practices of Arabs.

I think US & EU systems can benefit from it – but its incorporation would require the creation of the role of executioner again.

But please note that the scope of Retribution in Islamic Law is not just confined to capital cases and involves other criminal situations such as willful and wanton physical injury. In such cases, the courts in Iran issue a “Qesas” finding – granting the victim who might have lost a limb or other organ to exact an equal harm. To do this, you will need executioners or physicians who will amputate these organs in question.

Or when a young man throws acid in the face of a young woman whom he cannot have; courts have ruled that he must be blinded.

An application of the right to Retribution, in my opinion, could have profitably been made in case of Rodney King in US. The officers in questions could have been sentenced to “Qesas” and been beaten by Mr. King and that would have been the end of that. No further need to expel from the police force or ruin their careers for a temporary lapse of judgement.

The Ghetto Intellectual™ said...

I am African American. I don't support the death penalty but many Americans do. There are many State-sponsored executions in the US. Most of them are carried out with little fanfare. I, for one, look forward to the day when there is a universal ban on executions. We humans should look for more humane ways to punish criminals. As for corrupts judiciaries, I can't imagine that the Iranian judiciary is any more corrupt than the American judiciary. As the OJ trial indicated, American juridical corruption is in large part racial or anti-black. GI

The Ghetto Intellectual™ said...

Anon, peace be with you. Those are useful insights on retribution. I am an African by ancestry and American due to the fact that my Ancestors were stolen from Africa centuries ago. For the black former slaves of America, Americas laws are fundamentally unjust. They support and promote white supremacy. And our police officers don't have temporary lapses, rather they have permanent racist motives. The role of policing in American since the end of slavery in 1865 is to control black people. Moreover, the retribution principles are fine for Muslims but that is not African justice. Africans did not generally practice retribution justice. Retribution cannot solve the problem of deeply entrenched systematic and structural white supremacy. Moreover, neither Iran nor America nor most places in the world grant women equal justice. Restribution cannot solve the problem of fundamental inequalities. GI

Anonymous said...

The Ghetto Intelectual:

I do not know what you mean by "African Justice". That is because I go by analogy with "Asian Justice" or "European Justice" terms which carry no content. Perhaps you can explain what you have in mind?

Having lived in US for many years, I think that I can dispassionately observe that very many young African-American men cannot function productively and profitably in the American society. On the other hand, the African-American women in US seem to be able to function well in that society.

Do you understand that and can you explain the differences?

As for Justice for women; or lack of it, what do you have in mind? In Iran, it was the young men who walked over the minefields and were blown to pieces.